August 23, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Arbitration Award Must Be Confirmed by Trial Court if Not Timely Appealed

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in In re Marriage of Rivera on Thursday, February 28, 2013.

Dissolution of Marriage—Arbitration Award—CRS §§ 13-22-222(1) and 14-10-128.5(2).

In this dissolution of marriage proceeding, husband appealed from the trial court’s order partially confirming an arbitration award as to property and maintenance provisions and ordering a hearing on the remaining parenting issues. The order was reversed and the case was remanded with directions.

Husband and wife agreed to resolve the terms of their dissolution of marriage through mediation and arbitration. At mediation, they agreed to joint decision-making authority and adopted the parenting schedule recommended by the child and family investigator. The parties agreed the mediator would be designated as an arbitrator to resolve any dispute arising out of the mediated agreement.

The parties then disputed the property distribution provisions in the mediated agreement and proceeded to arbitration. The arbitrator entered a final award, which reaffirmed the parenting time agreement. Wife then filed a motion requesting trial court confirmation of the arbitration award under CRS § 13-22-222(1), and husband objected on grounds not relevant to the appeal. The court held a hearing wherein husband withdrew his objection, and both parties requested the mediated agreement and arbitration award be made orders of the court.

Following a colloquy with wife, the trial court determined that wife did not believe the mediation agreement was fair and therefore stopped the hearing, declined to confirm the arbitration award, and set a permanent orders hearing. Husband then moved to confirm the arbitration award under CRS § 13-22-222(1). He stressed that because neither party had timely sought to vacate, modify, or correct the award, the court was required to confirm it. Wife agreed, but objected as to the provisions concerning parenting issues. The court entered an order confirming all property and maintenance provisions, but ordered all parenting issues remain set for hearing. Husband appealed.

Husband argued that because he and wife resolved the dissolution through arbitration and wife did not seek to vacate, modify, or correct the arbitration award in a timely manner, the trial court lacked authority to set a permanent orders hearing to resolve parenting issues. The Court of Appeals agreed. CRS § 14-10-128.5(2) provides a specific means by which a party may seek trial court review of an arbitration award. The motion for a hearing must be made no later than thirty-five days after the date of the award. Here, no such timely request was made. Accordingly, the order was reversed and the case was remanded to confirm the award in its entirety.

Summary and full case available here.

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