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Family Law No. 01-0251, 6/26/2003. Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS: The court interprets a 1980 divorce decree that divided retirement benefits stemming from one spouse’s employment during and after the marriage. The trial court held that the decree entitled the non-employee spouse to a specific percentage of the total amount of the benefits as of the employee spouse’s retirement. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the decree awarded the non-employee spouse an interest in only the community portion of the benefits at the date of divorce, to be valued at the date of receipt. HOLDING: Reversed and rendered. The court refers to its discussion in Shanks v. Treadwayof the complexities involved in dividing retirement benefits, the state of the law at the time the decree was entered, and the changes made soon after. The court reiterates that a divorce decree is interpreted like any other judgment, reading the decree as a whole and “effectuat[ing] the order in light of the literal language used” if that language is unambiguous. Wilde v. Murchie, 949 S.W.2d 331 (Tex. 1997). The court of appeals focused heavily on the fact that Taggart v. Taggart, 552 S.W.2d 422 (Tex. 1977), and Cearley v. Cearley, 544 S.W.2d 661 (Tex. 1976), were controlling when the trial court entered the decree. The court “presume[d] the trial court knew of Cearleyand Taggartand constructed his decree accordingly.” But when the language of the decree is unambiguous, as it is here, the court interprets the judgment literally. Only when a judgment is subject to more than one reasonable interpretation will the court adopt the construction that correctly applies the law. MacGregor v. Rich, 941 S.W.2d 74 (Tex. 1997) (per curiam). And though the effect of the decree is to divest Edwin Reiss of his separate property, that does not alter the decree’s plain language. The court sees no valid reason to interpret the Reisses’ decree differently than the very similar decree in Shanks. The district court correctly construed the divorce decree to award Gloria 50 percent of Edwin’s total retirement benefits. The qualified domestic relations order therefore serves its intended purpose of implementing the division of benefits set out in the original decree and does not impermissibly “amend, modify, alter, or change the division of property made or approved in the decree of divorce.” Texas Family Code �9.007(a). Because the QDRO entered in this case is consistent with the unappealed divorce decree’s unambiguous property division, the court of appeals erred in reversing the district court’s judgment. Edwin contends that the divorce decree is a void judgment because the trial court that entered it did not have jurisdiction to divest him of his separate property. Therefore, Edwin argues, the decree is subject to attack at any time. The court disagrees. “Jurisdiction” refers to a court’s authority to adjudicate a case. Dubai Petroleum Co. v. Kazi, 12 S.W.3d 71 (Tex. 2000). In general, as long as the court entering a judgment has jurisdiction of the parties and the subject matter and does not act outside its capacity as a court, the judgment is not void. Mapco Inc. v. Forrest, 795 S.W.2d 700 (Tex. 1990) (per curiam) (citing Cook v. Cameron, 733 S.W.2d 137 (Tex. 1987)). Errors other than lack of jurisdiction, such as “a court’s action contrary to a statute or statutory equivalent,” merely render the judgment voidable so that it may be “corrected through the ordinary appellate process or other proper proceedings.” The trial court in this case incorrectly characterized all of the benefits accrued under the pension plan as community property in the Reisses’ divorce decree, and the judgment was voidable if properly appealed. But the judgment is not void because a court has jurisdiction to characterize community property – even if it does so incorrectly. Absent an appeal, the judgment became final, and Edwin may not now collaterally attack the court’s division of property in the decree. OPINION: O’Neill, J.; Phillips, C.J., Hecht, Owen and Smith, JJ., join. Schneider, J., did not participate in the decision. DISSENT: Jefferson, J.; Enoch and Justice Wainwright joined. “The Reisses’ decree unambiguously awarded Gloria a 50 percent interest in the communityportion of Edwin’s retirement benefits. Thus, the district court was without authority to enter a QDRO altering that division. SeeTex. Fam. Code � 9.007. Accordingly, the appellate court correctly found that the district court erred by awarding Gloria a 50 percent interest in the entirety of Edwin’s retirement benefits.”

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