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In re Marriage of Rostrom

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 1

December 1, 2014

In the Matter of the Marriage of Kathryn Sue Rostrom, Respondent, and Dale Lee Rostrom, Appellant

Oral Argument September 10, 2014

Page 186

Appeal from King County Superior Court. Docket No: 12-3-07797-9. Judge signing: Honorable Judith H Ramseyer. Judgment or order under review. Date filed: 05/02/2014.

Kathryn Rostrom, pro se.

Dennis J. McGlothin and Robert J. Cadranell II (of Western Washington Law Group PLLC ); and J. Michael Gallagher, for appellant.

Concurring: Michael S. Spearman, Ann Schindler.

OPINION

Page 187

[184 Wn.App. 748] J. Robert Leach, J.

[¶1] Dale Rostrom appeals a trial court decision that allowed Kathryn Rostrom to move their minor children from the United States to Australia. Dale[1] challenges a number of the court's findings of fact. He also claims that the court did not order adequate safeguards for enforcement of the parenting plan after the children moved. The trial court considered the factors required by the relocation statute, and substantial evidence supports the court's findings. But the court's parenting plan does not include significant stipulations made by the parties about the trial court's continuing jurisdiction to modify and enforce its orders. We remand to the trial court with directions to

Page 188

amend the parenting plan to incorporate these stipulations, to consider if it should require a bond to guarantee compliance with any parenting plan provisions, and to require the parties to register the amended parenting plan in the Family Court of Australia. We otherwise affirm.

FACTS

[¶2] Dale Rostrom and Kathryn Rostrom married in 1996 and have a son and daughter, who were 6 and 11 years old at the time of trial. Kathryn worked as a high level executive for technology companies. Dale worked as an automotive technician and, after returning to school, in the field of computer-assisted drafting. While on a business trip to Shanghai, China, in October 2012, Kathryn met John [184 Wn.App. 749] Foster, a resident of Australia. The following month, Kathryn visited Foster in Australia, and the two became romantically involved. When she returned, Kathryn asked Dale to move out of the family home, which he did on November 11, 2012.

[¶3] Later that month, Kathryn filed a petition to dissolve the marriage. After the separation, tensions within the family and especially between Dale and K.R., the couple's daughter, became more pronounced. On August 18, 2013, Dale was arrested for driving under the influence (DUI). The trial court suspended the children's overnight visits with him for six months.

[¶4] The parties settled all issues at mediation on September 24, 2013, signing a CR 2A agreement and an agreed parenting plan. In October 2013, Kathryn visited Foster in Australia, and they became engaged to be married. In November, Kathryn discovered she was pregnant with Foster's child.

[¶5] On November 25, 2013, Kathryn filed a notice of intended relocation to Australia. On December 10, 2013, Dale filed an objection.

[¶6] On December 24, 2013, the court denied Dale's motion to invalidate the CR 2A agreement, noting in its order, " Entry of final orders at this time does not affect resolution of the issue of relocation now pending, which will be resolved on its own merits." On December 30, 2013, the trial court entered final orders for support, findings of fact and conclusions of law, a parenting plan, and a dissolution decree. The parenting plan designated Kathryn the primary residential parent and granted Dale visitation subject to certain restrictions based on " [a] long-term impairment resulting from drug, alcohol, or other substance abuse that interferes with the performance of parenting functions."

[¶7] In April 2014, the same trial judge presided over a four-day bench trial on relocation. On May 2, 2014, the court entered a new parenting plan and an order allowing relocation. [184 Wn.App. 750] On May 4, 2014, Kathryn moved with the children to Australia. On May 28, 2014, a commissioner of this court denied Dale's emergency motion for a stay pending appeal.

[¶8] Dale appeals.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

[¶9] The United States Constitution protects parental rights as a fundamental liberty interest.[2] We review a trial court's relocation decision for abuse of discretion.[3] A court abuses its discretion when it makes a manifestly unreasonable decision or bases its decision on untenable grounds or reasons.[4] This can occur when a court applies an incorrect legal standard, substantial evidence does not support the court's findings, or the findings do not meet the requirements of the correct standard.[5]

[¶10] This court does not review the trial court's credibility determinations or

Page 189

weigh conflicting evidence.[6] Given the strong interest in the finality of marriage dissolution proceedings, we defer to the trial court and will affirm " unless no reasonable judge would have reached the same conclusion." [7]

ANALYSIS

The UCCJEA, the CRA, and the Hague Convention

[¶11] Dale claims that the court's current orders do not allow " the Washington trial court to guarantee the Relocation [184 Wn.App. 751] Order or Parenting Plan are currently enforceable" in Australia. He contends that the court abused its discretion by permitting relocation " without assuring the Washington courts' continuing jurisdiction." Because the court " did not fully understand the Convention or Australian Law," Dale argues, the court jeopardized his visitation rights and the possibility of the children's return.

[¶12] Under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), chapter 26.27 RCW, a court making a valid initial custody determination retains exclusive, continuing jurisdiction until

(a) A court of this state determines that neither the child, the child's parents, and any person acting as a parent do not have a significant connection with this state and that substantial evidence is no longer available in this state concerning the ...

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