In the Matter of the Marriage of: JOHN WILLIAM LAIDLAW, Appellant, and DANAE DIANA LAIDLAW, now known as DANAE DIANA ZOELLIN, Respondent.
domestic relations relocation action, John Laidlaw appeals
from the trial court's orders entering a parenting plan
and ordering Laidlaw to pay some of Danae Zoellin's
attorney fees and costs. On appeal, Laidlaw contends that the
trial court erred by reducing his residential time with his
daughter. Laidlaw also contends that the trial court erred by
ordering him to pay some of Danae Zoellin's attorney fees
and costs and by ordering wage garnishment in the event that
he defaulted on that obligation. Finding no error in the
issues warranting review, we affirm.
Laidlaw and Danae Zoellin were married on January 3, 2009.
Together the parties have one child-T.L. Following a trial,
Laidlaw and Zoellin were divorced on August 2, 2013. Judge
Sean O'Donnell entered an order concluding that Laidlaw
had engaged in a series of acts that constituted domestic
violence and had engaged in abusive use of conflict. Judge
O'Donnell also entered a parenting plan pursuant to the
marital dissolution. The parenting plan incorporated the
findings and conclusions concerning domestic violence as a
basis for certain restrictions imposed against
Laidlaw. Judge O'Donnell also ordered Laidlaw
to pay $30, 000 of Zoellin's attorney fees.
and Zoellin lived in Issaquah when T.L. was born. Prior to
the dissolution of their marriage, Zoellin entered an address
confidentiality program, moving multiple times out of fear
for her safety. At the time the final dissolution order was
entered, Zoellin lived in Issaquah. In October 2014, Zoellin
began a new job in Seattle. Zoellin commuted from Issaquah to
Seattle for one and a half years before giving notice of her
intent to relocate with the child in Seattle.
opposed the relocation. In March 2016, Laidlaw filed a motion
objecting to the relocation and seeking to modify the 2013
parenting plan. Laidlaw's proposed parenting plan removed
the restrictions contained in the 2013 parenting plan and
made him the primary residential parent. In April 2016, the
trial court entered an order permitting Zoellin to
temporarily relocate with the child to Seattle pending trial.
Zoellin moved to Seattle in July 2016.
trial, the trial court entered an order permitting Zoellin to
relocate with T.L. The trial court found that (1) there were
no agreements between the parents concerning moving with the
child, (2) relocation would not affect the relationship
between the child and either parent, (3) the history of
domestic violence continued to affect the parents'
relationship, and (4) permitting relocation would not impact
the child's future, quality of life, resources or
opportunities as a result of the move. The trial court also
found that Laidlaw had failed to rebut the presumption that
the benefit of the change to the child and the relocating
parent outweighed the detrimental effect of the relocation.
Finally, the trial court found that, in light of the
relocation, there were valid reasons to alter the parenting
plan and that such changes were in the best interest of the
considering the financial affidavits and declarations
submitted by both parties, the trial court found that Zoellin
needed financial assistance to pay her attorney fees and
costs and that Laidlaw had the ability to pay those fees and
costs. The trial court ordered Laidlaw to pay $15,
of Zoellin's attorney fees and costs after finding that
such an amount was reasonable. The trial court also ordered
the Washington State Division of Child Support to collect $1,
000 each month via immediate wage garnishment should Laidlaw
fail to satisfy the judgment within 90 days.
parenting plan entered by the trial court incorporated the
findings of domestic violence and abusive use of conflict
outlined in the dissolution and 2013 parenting
plan. As with the 2013 parenting plan, the 2016
parenting plan contained detailed residential provisions
concerning the residential time schedule. In light of the
relocation, the total residential time allocated to Laidlaw
in the 2016 parenting plan is less than the total time
allocated in the 2013 parenting plan. Laidlaw appeals from the
entry of the 2016 parenting plan and related orders.
first contends that the trial court erred by entering the
2016 parenting plan. This is so, he asserts, because the
trial court failed to make any findings to support its
decision to alter the residential schedule. We disagree.
review a trial court's decision concerning the welfare of
children for an abuse of discretion. In re Marriage of
Homer, 151 Wn.2d 884, 893, 93 P.3d 124 (2004). A court
abuses its discretion when its decision is manifestly
unreasonable or based upon untenable grounds or reasons.
Salas v. Hi-Tech Erectors, 168 Wn.2d 664, 668-69,
230 P.3d 583 (2010). "A court's decision is
manifestly unreasonable if it is outside the range of
acceptable choices, given the facts and the applicable legal
standard; it is based on untenable grounds if the factual
findings are unsupported by the record; it is based on
untenable reasons if it is based on an incorrect standard or
the facts do not meet the requirements of the correct
standard." In re Marriage of Littlefield, 133
Wn.2d 39, 47, 940 P.2d 1362 (1997). Unchallenged findings of
fact are verities on appeal and unchallenged conclusions of
law become the law of the case. Rush v. Blackburn,
190 Wn.App. 945, 956, 361 P.3d 217 (2015).
child relocation act (CRA), RCW 26.09.405-.560, provides
certain notice requirements and standards for changing the
primary residence of a child who is the subject of a court
order regarding residential time. "If a person entitled
to residential time or visitation objects to a child's
relocation, the person seeking to move the child may not
relocate the child without court approval." In re
Marriage of McNaught, 189 Wn.App. 545, 553, 359 P.3d 811
(2015). The CRA imposes a rebuttable presumption that
relocation will be permitted and requires trial courts to
consider 11 factors when determining whether the detrimental
effects of relocation outweigh the benefits to both the child
and the parent seeking to relocate. RCW 26.09.520. These
considerations include any prior agreements between the
parents, the effect of the relocation on the child's
physical, educational, and emotional development, the quality
of life and opportunities available to the child before and
after relocation, and any alternatives to relocation. RCW
26.09.520(2), (3), (6), (7), (9).
order permitting or restraining the relocation of a child may
necessitate modification of an existing parenting plan. A
trial court's ability to modify a parenting plan is
controlled by statute. McDevitt v. Davis, 181
Wn.App. 765, 769, 326 P.3d 865 (2014).
26.09.260 sets forth the predicates for modification of a
parenting plan. Pursuant to that statute, modification is
generally prohibited absent a finding that "a
substantial change has occurred in the circumstances of the
child or the nonmoving party and that the modification is in
the best interest of the child and is necessary to serve the
best interests of the child." RCW 26.09.260(1). In
addition, modification of a parenting plan generally requires
one of the following: (a) the assent of both parents, (b) the
integration of the child into the family of the petitioner
with the consent of the other parent, (c) a finding that the
child's present environment is detrimental to the
child's physical, mental, or emotional health and the
harm likely to be caused by a change of environment is
outweighed by the advantage of a change to the child, or (d)
parental noncompliance with the residential time provisions
in the parenting plan that has resulted in the nonmoving
parent being held in contempt of court at least twice within
three years. RCW 26.09.260(2).
exception to the statutory predicates set forth in RCW
26.09.260(1) and (2) exists when modification is based on a
court's order permitting relocation. Modification of a
parenting plan based on ...