What Brown called an enforcement of a marital settlement agreement was actually his unjustifiable alteration of it, Chief Judge Juan Ramirez Jr. wrote for the three-judge panel Wednesday.
"The trial court rewrote the parties’ settlement agreement and impermissibly amended prior orders of the court," Ramirez wrote.
The court was addressing a divorce case in which a woman accused her ex-husband of failing to follow their settlement.
Helio Rocha agreed to give Maria Ines Alves Mendonca a portion of his 401(k) account and retirement plan, but she didn’t receive the latter.
Rocha paid $140,000 from his 401(k) but argued he didn’t owe $270,000 from his pension until sometime after reaching the retirement age of 55 in 2011. That wasn’t soon enough for Mendonca.
Brown amended the settlement in 2008 to require immediate payment of the pension.
The appellate court reversed the order and sent the case back for a ruling in Rocha’s favor.
"Although a trial court may be motivated to do what it considers to be fair and equitable, it retains no jurisdiction to rewrite the terms of a marital settlement contract. Under the guise of enforcing the agreement, the trial court here impermissibly modified it," Ramirez wrote. Judges Angel Cortinas and Barbara Lagoa concurred.