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Ramirez v. Ramirez

Court of Appeals of Texas, Third District, Austin

April 11, 2019

Eva Ramirez, Appellant
v.
Eddie Ramirez, Jr., Appellee

          FROM THE COUNTY COURT AT LAW NO. 4 OF WILLIAMSON COUNTY NO. 16-2919-FC4, HONORABLE JOHN MCMASTER, JUDGE PRESIDING

          Before Justices Goodwin, Baker, and Smith

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          MELISSA GOODWIN, JUSTICE.

         Eva Ramirez appeals from the trial court's order granting Eddie Ramirez, Jr.'s motion for judgment nunc pro tunc and the trial court's related qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) signed on the same day.[1] Eva argues that the mistakes in the parties' agreed final decree of divorce (the decree), if any, were judicial errors and, thus, could not be corrected by a judgment nunc pro tunc. For the following reasons, we affirm the challenged orders.

         Background

         Eddie filed a petition for divorce in September 2016. The parties entered into an informal settlement agreement (ISA), resolving all issues related to their children and the division of their assets and debts. Both parties and their attorneys signed the ISA and filed it with the trial court in October 2016. Relevant to this appeal, the ISA included the following agreement as to the division of Eddie's 401(k) from State Farm Insurance (the 401(k)):

Wife is awarded . . . a portion of the Husband's 401k from State Farm Insurance that portion being $32, 040.50 as of the date of this agreement, September 30, 2016. A QDRO [qualified domestic relations order] will be submitted to the Court for entry to effect the division of the Husband's 401k.
Husband is awarded . . . a portion of the 401k from State Farm, that portion being 100% of the remainder after the award to Wife above, in the approximate amount of $167, 606.50.

         On December 29, 2016, the Honorable Rick J. Kennon held a prove-up hearing in which he granted the parties' divorce and signed the decree. Eddie's counsel and Eva appeared for the hearing. The parties waived the making of a record of testimony at the hearing, but the "Judge's Docket Entry" from the hearing states:

Agreed Divorce; Petitioner appeared with attorney; Respondent filed Answer and signed Decree; Informal Settlement Agreement filed; Evidence presented; 2 children; Attorney confirmed that decree complied with settlement agreement; Divorce granted and provisions regarding children and property approved; Signed Agreed Final Decree of Divorce; Signed Two QDRO s and Order Withholding (RK).

Both parties signed the decree as to form and substance, and their respective counsel signed as to form only. In the decree, the trial court made the following findings as to the ISA:

The Court finds that the parties have entered into a written agreement as contained in this decree by virtue of having approved this decree as to both form and substance. To the extent permitted by law, the parties stipulate the agreement is enforceable as a contract. The Court approves the agreement of the parties as contained in this Final Decree of Divorce.
The agreements in this Final Decree of Divorce were reached pursuant to the informal settlement process. This Final Decree of Divorce is stipulated to represent a merger of an informal settlement agreement between the parties. To the extent there exist any differences between the informal settlement agreement and this Final Decree of Divorce, this Final Decree of Divorce shall control in all instances.

         In conflict with the terms of the ISA, however, the 401(k) was divided between the parties as follows in the decree:

IT IS ORDERED AND DECREED that the husband, is awarded the following as his sole and separate property, and the wife is divested of all right, title, interest, and claim in and to that property: . . . .
A portion of Eddie Ramirez, Jr.'s retirement benefits in State Farm 401(k) arising out of Eddie Ramirez, Jr.'s employment with State Farm as of September 30, 2016, that portion being $32, 040.50, together with any interest, dividends, gains, or losses on that amount arising since that date and more particularly defined in a Qualified Domestic Relations Order signed by the Court on the day this Final Decree of Divorce is signed.
IT IS ORDERED AND DECREED that the wife, is awarded the following as her sole and separate property, and the husband is divested of all right, title, interest, and claim in and to that property: . . . .
A portion of Eddie Ramirez, Jr.'s retirement benefits in State Farm 401(k) arising out of Eddie Ramirez, Jr.'s employment with State Farm as of September 30, 2016, that portion being fifty percent (50%), together with any interest, dividends, gains, or losses on that amount arising since that date and more particularly defined in a Qualified ...

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