In Texas divorces, it is common for the parties to agree to a property division and ask the court to approve the agreement and include it in the decree. Once the court does so, it generally may not modify or alter the property division included in the agreement. It may, however, still divide property that was not divided in the agreement and decree. It is therefore important for the parties to be sure the agreement to clearly divide everything, or they may have to go back to court to address something that was omitted. This can be difficult in some cases, however. What happens, for example, when the agreement and decree divide the net amount of a bonus, but do not address pre-tax deductions that go to one of the parties? A recent case addressed this issue.
The divorce decree incorporated the agreement between the parties, which included a detailed division of the marital estate based on the informal agreement the parties executed at a settlement conference. The agreement stated the husband would receive 47% of the net amount of his 2013 year-end bonus and wife would get a 53% portion of the “net amount after taxes and deductions.” The agreement also stated the wedding and engagement ring were the wife’s separate property.
The husband’s pay stub showed he received $460,000 for his 2013 bonus, but reflected two pre-tax deductions totaling $81,000. The deductions included $75,000 for deferred annual bonus and $6,000 for personal savings account contribution. Taxes totaled $108,711.10 and the pay stub listed $270,228.90 as the “net pay” for the bonus. The husband paid the wife 53% of the net pay amount.