In a Texas divorce, the parties are sometimes able to reach a mediated settlement agreement (MSA). Texas Family Code Section 6.602 sets out the requirements for an MSA to be binding. To be binding the MSA must include a “prominently displayed statement” that it is not subject to revocation. It must be signed by each party and by the party’s attorney if the attorney is present at the time the agreement is signed. Sometimes, however, after reaching agreement on the terms of an MSA, the parties do not agree on what those terms really mean.
A wife recently appealed an amended Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) on the grounds it did not accurately reflect the parties’ MSA. The parties had agreed on a MSA and were divorced in 2012. The MSA set forth distribution of the husband’s Texas Municipal Retirement System (TMRS) retirement plan. It provided he would keep the retirement through his employment. If the retirement exceeded $100,000 as of the date of the MSA, the excess was to be divided equally between the parties.
The divorce decree stated that if the amount exceeded $100,000 as of January 12, 2012, the excess was to be divided equally between the parties. The trial court signed a QDRO on July 10, 2013, but TMRS rejected it. The trial court signed an amended order that stated the wife was awarded a portion of benefits payable which the husband may become entitled to receive from the retirement plan through accumulated contributions or annuity. The order set forth the calculation for determining the wife’s portion. The court subsequently amended the QDRO again, setting out a specific number for part of the calculation. The husband moved to set aside the Second Amended QDRO, arguing it allowed the wife to receive payment of interest that was not included in the MSA. He also argued that the wife’s share should not include municipal contributions. The trial court changed the calculation to exclude municipal contributions and signed a Third Amended QDRO.