In some Texas divorce cases, the parties are able to reach an agreement on property division. Such an agreement is treated as a contract, even when it is incorporated into a final agreed divorce decree. If there is an ambiguity, the agreement may be reformed to correct a mutual mistake or reflect the parties’ intent. An ambiguity exists if the meaning is uncertain or could reasonably be interpreted in more than one way. To show there was a mutual mistake, a party must prove there was a definite agreement that was misstated in the contract due to a mistake of both parties.
In a recent case, a wife moved for clarification to correct the trial court’s omission of the amount of her portion of the husband’s military retirement. The couple divorced in 2000. The agreed final divorce decree awarded the wife an amount of the husband’s Navy disposable retired pay, and 50% of all increases. The amount was supposed to be “determined under the formula set forth below,” but the decree did not contain a provision setting forth a specific portion or calculation. The decree awarded` the portion of the retirement pay “not awarded to [the wife]” to the husband.
The husband started receiving his military retirement benefits in 2015. When the wife contacted the Defense Finance and Accounting Service to get her share of the benefits, she was told she could not be paid because the decree did not include a formula awarding her a portion of the retirement.