Daily Decisions: Not All Time Limits Are Jurisdictional

In Buecking v. Buecking (Division 1, April 2, 2012), the Court of Appeals reviewed a decree of marital dissolution.  The husband (let’s call him “Husband”) and wife (or “Wife”) were married for nine years and had three kids.  But after nine years, Wife filed for legal separation (not dissolution).  Then, almost four months later, Wife and Husband jointly amended the filing to request dissolution. After a one-day trial, the Superior Court entered an order of child support, a parenting plan, and a decree of dissolution.  The Court’s order/decree came down two months after the amended filing but six months after the original filing.

Husband was not happy, so he appealed, arguing that the Superior Court was without jurisdiction to enter the decree of dissolution.  What’s the problem?  Well, under RCW 26.09.030 the Superior Court “shall” proceed on a matter seeking dissolution after “ninety days have elapsed since the petition was filed.” And while the Court issued its order/decree ninety days after the original petition, ninety days had not yet passed since the filing of the amended petition — the one actually seeking dissolution.

So when does the waiting period run: from the first filing or from the filing requesting dissolution?  The Court of Appeals doesn’t decide, because Husband never raised the issue below.  While the Court concedes that entry of the order “may be a legal error,” that alleged error “does not result in loss of jurisdiction”  Accordingly, as a non-jurisdictional error, it can be waived, and Husband waived it by not raising it below.  The Court of Appeals therefore affirmed the Superior Court’s order/decree.

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One thought on “Daily Decisions: Not All Time Limits Are Jurisdictional

  1. Pingback: Monday Morning Mash-up: April 9, 2012 | Ziff Blog

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