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Robles v. Robles

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

September 20, 2017

Juan ROBLES, Appellant
v.
Maria Milagros ROBLES, Appellee

         From the 25th Judicial District Court, Guadalupe County, Texas Trial Court No. 10-2084-CV Honorable W.C. Kirkendall, Judge Presiding

          Sandee Bryan Marion, Chief Justice Rebeca C. Martinez, Justice Irene Rios, Justice

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          IRENE RIOS, JUSTICE

         This appeal arises out of a post-divorce proceeding between appellant Juan Robles and appellee Maria Milagros Robles. Juan asserts the trial court lacked plenary power to hold a hearing on Maria's motion to reconsider or enter the March 22, 2016 order granting Maria's motion to reconsider. Because we agree the trial court lacked plenary power to enter the order, we vacate the March 22, 2016 order and dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

         Background

         The parties married on January 4, 1985. Maria filed her original petition for divorce in Guadalupe County on October 1, 2010, and Juan filed a counter-petition. The parties entered into a Mediated Settlement Agreement (MSA) on May 20, 2011, and a Final Decree of Divorce was entered on June 19, 2013.

         Thereafter, the parties disputed the division of a Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) in the initial Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) and, subsequently, they were ordered to arbitration for a determination regarding the date designated for division of the TSP, among other issues. The arbitrator determined the date for division of the TSP was May 20, 2011 - the date of the MSA, and Juan filed a motion to enforce the arbitration award and motion for entry of arbitration. On August 13, 2015, the trial court signed an order granting Juan's motion and directing Maria to reimburse Juan $13, 542.49 for overpayment from the TSP (the "corrected QDRO").

         On August 31, 2015, Maria filed a Motion to Reconsider or Alternatively Order Arbitration. On November 17, 2015, the trial court held a hearing during which Juan argued the trial court lacked plenary power to hold the hearing. The trial court disagreed and proceeded with the hearing. The hearing was subsequently reset for November 23, 2015. At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court orally pronounced its ruling and set the amount of Maria's reimbursement to the TSP at $5, 156.14 rather than $13, 542.49. The trial court also ordered Juan to pay Maria $2, 500.00 in attorney's fees. On March 22, 2016, the trial court signed a written order granting Maria's motion to reconsider and awarding her attorney's fees.

         This appeal followed.

         Analysis

         Juan contends the trial court lacked plenary power to proceed with the hearings on November 17, 2015 and November 23, 2015, and as a result, the trial court's March 22, 2016 order is void. Juan argues the trial court's plenary power expired thirty days after the trial court signed the August 13, 2015 corrected QDRO because the motion filed by Maria did not extend the trial court's plenary power.[1] Juan additionally argues that even if the trial court's plenary power was extended by Maria's motion, the trial court's plenary power expired before it signed the written order granting Maria's motion on March 22, 2016.

         We review whether a trial court has subject matter jurisdiction de novo. Tex. Dep't of Parks & Wildlife v. Miranda, 133 S.W.3d 217, 228 (Tex. 2004).

         The trial court's August 13, 2015 corrected QDRO order is a final, appealable order, which has the same effect as a judgment. See Reiss v. Reiss, 118 S.W.3d 439, 441 (Tex. 2003) (post-divorce QDRO reviewed by appeal); Beshears v. Beshears, 423 S.W.3d 493, 500 (Tex. App.- Dallas 2014, no pet.).

         A trial court retains plenary power to grant a new trial or to vacate, modify, correct, or reform a judgment within thirty days after the judgment is signed. Tex.R.Civ.P. 329b(d); First Alief Bank v. White,682 S.W.2d 251, 252 (Tex. 1984) (orig. proceeding) (per curiam). If no party to a judgment files a motion to extend the trial court's plenary power, the trial court loses plenary power over the judgment thirty days after the judgment is signed. Pollard v. Pollard,316 S.W.3d 246, 251 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2010 no pet.). If such a motion is timely filed, the trial court has plenary power to grant a new trial or to vacate, modify, correct, or reform the judgment until thirty days after such motion is overruled by a written or signed order or by operation of law. Tex.R.Civ.P. 329b(e). Such a motion is overruled by operation of law seventy-five days after the judgment is signed if no written order on the motion is signed within that time period. Id. R. 329b(c) (emphasis added). The Texas Supreme Court has recognized that "a timely filed postjudgment motion ...


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