A court generally may not amend or change the property division made in a Texas divorce decree. The court may issue an order to enforce the property division, but such an order may only clarify the prior order or assist in its implementation. If a court improperly amends or modifies the substantive property division in the final divorce decree, it is acting beyond its power and that order is unenforceable. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 9.007. Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDRO) are separate orders that set forth the distribution of retirement plan assets. They are considered a type of enforcement or clarification order and cannot change the property division made in the divorce decree.
In a recent case, an ex-wife sought an additional QDRO years after the divorce was finalized. The couple divorced in 1995, and the parties have been in litigation for the past several years regarding the husband’s retirement accounts.
The divorce decree awarded the ex-wife 50% “of any and all sums … related to any … retirement plan, pension plan, … or other benefit program existing by reason of [ex-husband’s] past, present, or future employment, including without limitation, [ex-husband’s] Retirement Fund, Provident Fund, and SPIF Fund with Shell Oil Company per Qualified Domestic Relations Orders …” The trial court signed a QDRO awarding the ex-wife half the funds in the ex-husband’s Shell Provident Fund on the date of the divorce. The court found the total community property interest in the Shell Provident Fund was the total amount of contributions, interest, and earnings made or accrued by or on behalf of the ex-husband into any of the Shell Provident Fund accounts. The QDRO stated the ex-wife was “divested of all right, title, and interest in and to any balance remaining in any account of the Shell Provident Fund…” and that the fund would be discharged from all obligations to her when full payment was made pursuant to the QDRO. It also said it would become an integral part of the divorce decree.