Posts Tagged ‘CR 2A’

The Court of Appeals, Division II, recently held that the provisions of a written agreement that usurp a trial court’s statutory duty to review modifications to a parenting plan are invalid. Marriage of Coy, 39690-4-II. The court further rejected the practice of one parent acting as an arbitrator for parenting plan disputes.

Mark and Kristine Coy entered a permanent parenting plan for their two-year-old daughter, in 2002. In 2008, mediation resulted in a handwritten CR 2A to increase residential time for Mr. Coy. The CR 2A provided that, if Mr. Coy complied with a set of added requirements, he would receive additional residential time. The parties assigned Ms. Coy complete discretionary authority to determine whether Mr. Coy complied with the requirements.

After several months, Ms. Coy felt that Mr. Coy had failed to meet these requirements. Mr. Coy sought review in binding arbitration. The arbitrator agreed with Ms. Coy and entered findings of fact and conclusions of law. Mr. Coy moved for de novo review of the arbitrator’s orders in the trial court. The trial court denied the motion, in part because the parties had used “binding arbitration of their own volition.”

At the appeals level, Mr. Coy argued that under statutory provisions and case law, he had the right to a new review by a trial court of any result of a parenting plan dispute resolution process. Ms. Coy asserted that a trial court should only review the arbitrator’s findings and conclusions for whether she had abused her discretion in denying Mr. Coy additional time.

The court did not rule directly on either issue. Instead, it invalidated the CR2A, holding that parties cannot stipulate to a process that eliminates the trial court’s considerations of parenting plan modifications under the best interests of the child standard.

The statute that governs modification of parenting plans, RCW 26.09.260, requires that a trial court consider and make any modifications to a parenting plan based on what is in the best interests of the child. The Court of Appeals held that trial courts cannot delegate this authority for parenting plan modifications, and that any agreement, no matter how minor, “requires an independent inquiry by the trial court.”


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