Court of Appeals: Div. III – Court Finds No Contempt, Just Parents’ Inability to Communicate
Mr. and Ms. Williams (no relation to this writer…I think) had two children together. They didn’t play nice and thus the court was used as a playground monitor to make sure they followed the rules. The rules in this case were contained in the parties’ parenting plan. It has been my experience in family law that people either take one of two roads when it comes to parenting plans: either they file the parenting plan away after the divorce is over and never refer to it again or they have it memorized and use it as a sword to constantly chastise their ex-spouse. The key difference here being the ability to communicate and work things out without needing a document to tell the parents how to raise their children TOGETHER. Divorce does not end the relationship if you have children. It just makes it different.
In this case, Mr. Williams cried foul to the court and alleged 11 counts of contempt on his ex-wife for failing to follow the parenting plan. Ms. Williams told the court that her actions were justified based on Mr. Williams’ abusive nature and drinking. (I swear they’re not related). “The commissioner found both parents' bad behavior stemmed from mutually bad communication. The commissioner further found noncompliance by the mother may have been justified given Mr. Williams' behavior that invited Ms. Williams' responses.” The motion for contempt was denied.
Mr. Williams appealed claiming that the trial court erred in combining the 11 contempt allegations based on separate incidents. The Court of Appeals quoted In re Marriage of Eklund, 143 Wn.App. 207, 213, 177 P.3d 189 (2008): “It is well within the trial court's discretion to hold that, when an initial petition alleges separate violations of a single court order, the incidents constitute a pattern of conduct that merges into a single finding of contempt when these acts are simultaneously declared to violate the order.” Therefore allegations of separate violations can merge into a single finding of no contempt. Mr. Williams also claimed that the commissioner’s findings were incorrect, but the Court of Appeals did not agree.
The bad part of this whole thing is that once these kids are over the age of 18 (which one of them now is), they will have to be the referees in this ugly dance for the rest of their lives. Graduations, weddings, holidays, even funerals will become the battle field for these two individuals to display their inability to just get along for the sake of their children.