In re the Matter of the Marriage of: GRETCHEN RUFF, FKA WORTHLEY, Petitioner, and WILLIAM WORTHLEY, Respondent.
asked to determine whether the "Child Relocation
Act" (CRA)applies to joint parenting plans when
parents share equal residential time and have equal
decisionmaking authority. Joint parenting plans that provide for
equal residential time and equal decisionmaking create an
important and serious commitment by parents to work closely
together to raise their children. A proposed relocation that
would modify a joint parenting plan's equal residential
time to something less than equal residential time is in
effect a change in residential placement. Such a change in
residential placement requires an adequate cause finding
under the modification statute. We therefore conclude that the
CRA does not apply to a proposed relocation that would modify
the joint parenting plan's joint and equal residential
time to something other than joint and equal residential
time. Accordingly, we dismiss the relocation action.
September 2009, William Worthley and Gretchen Ruff (formerly
Gretchen Worthley) divorced. Their parenting plan allowed for
their minor children to "reside equally or substantially
equally with both parents" on an alternating weekly
schedule (a "joint parenting plan"). Clerk's
Papers (CP) at 4. The parties are designated joint legal and
physical custodians of their minor children and have equal
2014, Worthley filed a notice of intended relocation seeking
to relocate their remaining minor child to Missouri. Two
different superior court judges made rulings on this case. In
September, in response to Ruffs dismissal motion, the first
superior court judge temporarily restrained Worthley from
relocating the minor child. The first superior court judge
concluded that because Worthley and Ruff had a joint
parenting plan, Worthley must file a modification petition
and meet the adequate cause burden before pursuing his
then petitioned for modification, arguing adequate cause
based on the child's integration into his home and Ruffs
detrimental home environment. Ruff opposed the petition and
argued that adequate cause did not exist to support a
parenting plan modification. The second superior court judge
concluded that Worthley failed to show adequate cause and
denied Worthley's modification petition. Turning to the
relocation action, the second superior court judge further
concluded that "[t]he [CRA] presumes that one parent is
the primary residential parent. The court will set an
evidentiary hearing to determine which parent is the primary
residential parent. Thereafter, the court will decide whether
the child should be allowed to relocate under the
[CRA]." CP at 245.
granted Ruffs discretionary review petition on the sole issue
of "whether the [CRA] applies to parenting plans that
provide for children to reside equally with both
parents." Ruling Granting Review, In re Marriage of
Worthley, No. 48462-5-II, at 6 (Wash.Ct.App. Apr. 4,
CRA Is Inapplicable to a Modification of the Joint Parenting
makes several arguments that the CRA does not apply to joint
parenting plans. We hold that the CRA does not apply when
the child's residential time is designated equal or
substantially equal in the parenting plan and when the
proposed relocation would result in a modification of this
Principles of Law
case involves an issue of statutory interpretation. We review
questions of statutory construction de novo. In re
Parentage of C.A.M.A., 154 Wn.2d 52, 57, 109 P.3d 405
(2005). Our fundamental objective when interpreting a statute
is "to discern and implement the intent of the
legislature." State v. J.P., 149 Wn.2d 444,
450, 69 P.3d 318 (2003). "Statutory interpretation
begins with the statute's plain meaning." Lake
v. Woodcreek Homeowners Ass 'n, 169 Wn.2d 516, 526,
243 P.3d 1283 (2010). We discern plain meaning from the
'"ordinary meaning of the language at issue, the
context of the statute in which that provision is found,
related provisions, and the statutory scheme as a
whole.'" Lake, 169 Wn.2d at 526 (quoting
State v. Engel, 166 Wn.2d 572, 578, 210 P.3d 1007
(2009)). "If a statute is clear on its face, its meaning
is to be derived from the plain language of the statute
alone." State v. Watson, 146 Wn.2d 947, 954, 51
P.3d 1 (2002). And in the absence of a statutory definition,
we "will give the term its plain and ordinary meaning
ascertained from a standard dictionary."
Watson, 146 Wn.2d at 954.
statute is unambiguous after a review of the plain meaning,
our inquiry is at an end. Lake, 169 Wn.2d at 526.
When the words in a statute are clear and unequivocal, we are
'"required to assume the Legislature meant exactly
what it said and apply the statute as written.'"
In re Custody of Smith, 137 Wn.2d 1, 8, 969 P.2d 21
(1998) (quoting Duke v. Boyd, 133 Wn.2d 80, 87, 942
P.2d 351 (1997)), aff'd sub nom. Troxel v.
Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 120 S.Ct. 2054, 147 L.Ed.2d 49
possible, statutes are to be construed so 'no clause,
sentence or word shall be superfluous, void, or
insignificant.'" HomeStreet, Inc. v. Dep't
of Revenue, 166 Wn.2d 444, 452, 210 P.3d 297 (2009)
(internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Kasper v.
City of Edmonds, 69 Wn.2d 799, 804, 420 P.2d 346
(1966)). We cannot read into a statute that which we may
believe '"the legislature has omitted, be it an
intentional or inadvertent omission.'"
Smith, 137 Wn.2d at 12 (quoting Auto. Drivers
& Demonstrators Union Local 882 v. Dep't of Ret.
Sys., 92 Wn.2d 415, 421, 598 P.2d 379 (1979)). Courts
cannot amend statutes by judicial construction or rewrite
statutes to avoid difficulty in construing and applying them.
C.A.M.A., 154 Wn.2d at 69.
the statute is 'susceptible to two or more reasonable
interpretations, ' it is ambiguous." Five
Corners Family Farmers v. State, 173 Wn.2d 296, 305, 268
P.3d 892 (2011) (quoting Burton v. Lehman, 153 Wn.2d
416, 423, 103 P.3d 1230 (2005)). But the "fact that two
or more interpretations are conceivable does not render a
statute ambiguous." Five Corners Family
Farmers, 173 Wn.2d at 305. If a statute is ambiguous, we
may look to relevant case law, the legislative history of the
statute, and the circumstances surrounding its enactment to
determine legislative intent. Anthis v. Copland, 173
Wn.2d 752, 756, 270 P.3d 574 (2012).
CRA's Plain Meaning
argues that the CRA's plain language and its statutory
scheme illustrate that the CRA does not apply to joint
parenting plans. We agree. 1. Plain Language
argues that the CRA's definition, notice, and reason for
relocation provisions show that the CRA does not apply to
evaluate proposed relocations in the context of joint
parenting plans where the child's residential time is
spent equally with both parents. Ruff further argues that
applying the CRA to a proposed relocation where there is a
joint parenting plan would require the court to improperly
read language into the statute that is not there. We agree.
is defined as "a change in principal
residence." RCW 26.09.410(2) (emphasis added). And
"a person with whom the child resides a majority of
the time'" must provide notification of the
proposed relocation (change in principal residence). RCW
26.09.430 (emphasis added). Finally, there is "a
rebuttable presumption that the intended relocation of the
child will be permitted." RCW 26.09.520.
the plain language of the CRA's relocation definition and
its notice provision, a relocation is a change in principal
residence, and the person with whom the child resides the
majority of time shall give notice of any intended change in
principal residence. The CRA does not define "principal
residence" or "majority." See RCW
26.09.410. In the absence of statutory definitions, we give
these terms their "plain and ordinary meaning
ascertained from a standard dictionary."
Watson, 146 Wn.2d at 954. The ordinary meaning of
"principal" is "most important" or
"influential, " and the ordinary meaning of
"majority" is "a number greater than half of a
Third New International Dictionary 1802, 1363 (2002).
definitions necessarily exclude joint parenting plans because
there is no "most important or influential" or
"principal" residence and there is no person with
whom the child resides "greater than half or the
"majority of the time." RCW 26.09.410, .430, .520.
To conclude otherwise would be to impermissibly render this
language superfluous, void, or insignificant. And we avoid
such results. HomeStreet, Inc., 166 Wn.2d at 452.
argues that the definition statute could be read to mean that
a child "has no principle [sic] place of residence or
the child has two" and that the notice statute could be
read to mean that "neither or both parents have a
majority of parenting time." Br. of Resp't at 8.
Worthley's interpretation of these provisions requires
reading into the CRA substantial language that the
legislature has omitted. This we cannot do.
definition of "relocate" would have to be read as
"a change in principal or equal
residence." The notice statute would need to be read as
"a person with whom the child resides a majority or
an equal time." And as for the presumption it would
need to be read to say, "There is a rebuttable
presumption that the intended relocation of the child will be
permitted, unless the child resides equally with the
parents." We cannot read into a statute that which
'"the legislature has omitted, be it an intentional
or inadvertent omission.'" Smith, 137 Wn.2d
at 12 (quoting Auto Drivers & Demonstrators Union
Local 882, 92 Wn.2d at 421). A plain reading of the
CRA's language supports the conclusion that the CRA does
not apply to ...