In Re Marriage of Buecking: The court said a subject matter jurisdiction can be raised at any time—and authority to enter an order, must be raised at trial.
By Christina A. Meserve and Charles E. Szurszewski, Family Lawyers
(We addressed the Court of Appeals version of this case in 2012.)
The wife had filed for legal separation. More than a year later, she filed an amended petition for dissolution of marriage in which the husband joined. The parties proceeded to trial the next month. After the court entered final papers, the husband appealed, contending the court lacked authority to enter the decree because it had been less than ninety days from the time of filing the petition for dissolution to the time of entry of the final papers. The court was short by nine days.
The Supreme Court held that the ninety-day period commences when the petition for dissolution is filed and not when a petition for legal separation, if any, has been filed. However, the error here is not an error involving subject matter jurisdiction which may be raised at any time. The court noted the distinction between subject matter jurisdiction, which can be raised at any time, and authority to enter an order in a particular case, which must be raised at trial.
The Supreme Court granted additional attorney’s fees to the wife.
Christina A. Meserve and Charles E. Szurszewski practice family law in Olympia, Washington with the law firm of Connolly Tacon & Meserve.