A trial court in a Washington divorce generally has broad discretion in the disposition of property and debts. Once the court enters the dissolution decree, though, it generally may not modify the property division unless there are conditions justifying the reopening of a judgment. The court may, however, correct clerical errors pursuant to CR 60(a). The court may not correct judicial errors, which involve “errors of substance.”
In a recent case, a husband challenged a court order that he argued changed the distribution of debt after he had moved for clarification of the original decree.
In his divorce petition, the husband had requested the debts be split equally and paid from the proceeds of the real property the parties owned together. The trial court awarded the husband the landscaping business along with its premises, equipment, and debt. The court awarded the wife $38,000 in spousal maintenance. The “Petitioner’s Debt” section of the decree stated the husband pay the 16 listed debts. Next to a mortgage debt and accounts in the husband’s name, the court wrote 100%. The court did not write any percentage next to two items on the list. The rest of the items had 50% written by them.