A final unambiguous divorce decree that disposes of all of the marital property should be final. Under Texas divorce law, such a decree generally cannot be re-litigated. However, the trial court can issue additional orders to help implement or clarify a prior order if they do not alter the substantive property division. The court may issue an order of clarification if the decree is ambiguous, as determined by using the rules of contract construction. A contract is ambiguous if its meaning is uncertain or doubtful, or if it is reasonably subject to more than one meaning. The court will consider the contract as a whole in light of the circumstances surrounding its formation, including parol evidence and the conduct of the parties.
In a recent case, a wife challenged an order clarifying the division of property. The parties had signed a mediated settlement agreement. The settlement included improved property that was described in two ways, a map in Exhibit A and a reference to the metes and bounds descriptions with separate exhibits describing each party’s share.
The parties agreed the husband would be awarded 26 additional acres because the improvements on the wife’s share were of a greater value. The trial court granted the husband’s motion for clarification of the division of this property, finding the decree was ambiguous. The clarification stated the map controlled, rather than the metes and bounds descriptions. The court also entered findings of fact and conclusions of law supporting the order.