In re Marriage O'Neil, 83031-7-I

CourtCourt of Appeals of Washington
Writing for the CourtMANN, J.
PartiesIn the Matter of the Marriage of: ALICIA D.K. O'NEIL, Respondent, and TRISTAN B. O'NEIL, Appellant.
Docket Number83031-7-I
Decision Date13 June 2022

In the Matter of the Marriage of: ALICIA D.K. O'NEIL, Respondent, and TRISTAN B. O'NEIL, Appellant.

No. 83031-7-I

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 1

June 13, 2022


UNPUBLISHED OPINION

MANN, J.

Tristan O'Neil appeals a final child support order stemming from the dissolution of his marriage with Alicia O'Neil. Tristan[1] argues: (1) that because Alicia brought a request to remove a downward deviation from the child support order as a motion to adjust, not a petition to modify, the trial court lacked authority to remove the deviation; (2) that he was denied procedural due process; and (3) that he should not have been sanctioned $405 in attorney fees for requesting a continuance. We affirm.

1

FACTS

On May 15, 2015, Alicia petitioned for dissolution of marriage. On April 4, 2016, Alicia and Tristan entered an agreed order of child support for their three children. Under the child support order, Tristan was to pay Alicia $400 per month. The child support order included a downward deviation from the standard calculation of $1564.88 per month. The downward deviation was based on the shared residential schedule that provided the children reside with each parent 50 percent of the time. See RCW 26.19.075(1)(d).

On March 8, 2021, Alicia moved to adjust child support, increasing Tristan's obligation to $1903.80 per month. The increase was based on an assumed increase in Tristan's wages and did not include a downward deviation. On April 8, 2021, Tristan responded, contending that Alicia's motion to adjust was procedurally improper and should have instead been filed as a petition for modification. On April 12, 2021, Alicia replied, stating that the parties did not agree that the downward deviation was nonmodifiable, and that there had been a material change of circumstance. Tristan moved to strike or continue the hearing and for fees, arguing that Alicia's reply was not a strict reply to his response and that he needed more time to consider arguments related to income. The King County Superior Court family law commissioner granted Tristan's request for a continuance until May 18, 2021, but awarded $405 in attorney fees to Alicia.

On May 11, 2021, Tristan again responded. Tristan did not contest Alicia's income calculations or the increase in child support obligations, but reiterated that an adjustment proceeding was the incorrect vehicle for removing the downward deviation.

2

On May 13, 2021, Alicia filed another reply and reiterated her substantive arguments that the downward deviation should be removed.

On May 18, 2021, the family law commissioner entered an order adjusting the original child support order. The commissioner determined that they could not address any claims for modification of the downward deviation because a limited motion to adjust was before them. The commissioner applied the parties' income to the current economic table using the children's ages, and applied the same downward deviation used in the original child support order. Tristan was ordered to pay $531.53 per month.

On June 18, 2021, Alicia timely moved for revision asserting that the court could in fact address claims for the modification of the downward adjustment. On July 9, 2021, Tristan responded, reasserting that the court could not modify the downward adjustment and that he did not have the chance to respond to Alicia's May 13, 2021 reply.

On July 20, 2021, the trial court granted in part and denied in part Alicia's motion for revision. The court determined that "Washington courts have general equitable power to modify any order pertaining to child support payments when the child's needs and parent's financial ability so require."[2] The court found that:

Petitioner's loss of spousal maintenance, her ongoing responsibility for community debt, the children's increased expenses now that they are older, and Respondent's significantly higher income compared to Petitioner's need demonstrated in her Financial Declaration all support a finding that the downward deviation should be eliminated. Because Petitioner's justification relate[s] to financial hardship rather than any changes in residential schedule, the Court may eliminate the deviation as an "adjustment."

The court denied Tristan's motion for reconsideration.

3

Tristan appeals.

ANALYSIS

A. Downward Deviation Tristan argues that the trial court lacked authority to remove the downward deviation. We disagree.

On appeal from a decision of a superior...

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