Sunday, June 10, 2007

Clarifying Order Must Be Consistent With Divorce Decree

Family Court Judge Exceeded Her Limited Power to Clarify Property Provisions of Final Decree of Divorce. Divorce court retains jurisdiction to clarify and enforce its prior order, but may not modify the property division.

Metzger v. Metzger Westbo (Tex.App.- Houston -1st. Dist.] Jun. 7, 2007)(Taft)(post-divorce suit for clarification order, limited continuing jurisdiction)

In this appeal from a post-divorce clarification order, the reviewing court, in an opinion authored by Justice Tim Taft, deletes certain elements of the order purportedly clarifying the provisions of a divorce decree, finding that they altered the substance of the underlying final decree, rather than merely adding specificity to aid enforcement. The divorce court may not revisit the property division and change it in a clarification order. To the extent property was omitted from the decree, a post-divorce partition suit is the proper vehicle. To the extent a dispute exists as to compliance with the mediated settlement agreement, the complaining party may pursue a breach of contract claim against the ex-spouse. The appellate court declines to set aside the mediation agreement as void.

Legal lingo: divorce decree, binding mediated settlement agreement, revocation and withdrawal of consent, property division, marital estate, separate property, community property, post-divorce partition suit, clarification order, continuing jurisdiction of court granting divorce

Disposition: Trial court judgment modified and affirmed as modified
Opinion author: Justice Tim Taft
Panel memers: Justices Taft, Alcala and Hanks
Appellate cause no.: 01-04-00893-CV
Style: Mark A. Metzger, Jr. v. Patricia Metzger Westbo
Trial Court: 247th District Court of Harris County (Judge Bonnie Hellums)

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