McCourts’ California Divorce is Official – But Far From Over

Bloomberg Business news reported this week that the long-running California divorce of Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt and his wife Jamie is now official despite the fact that the couple’s key property dispute – ownership of the baseball team – remains unresolved.

“Frank and Jamie McCourt’s divorce was made official Oct. 26, almost 31 years after they were married, according to a filing in state court in Los Angeles,” the news service reports. The report goes on to add, however, that while the Southern California family court judge’s ruling has dissolved the couple’s marriage, it will be at least December before he decides whether or not the couple’s much-disputed postnuptial agreement is or is not valid.

As my colleague Winiviere Sy noted when the case went to trial last September, the 2004 postnup specified that in the event of a divorce Frank McCourt would become sole owner of the Dodgers while Jamie would get the couple’s several homes. Jamie contends that, trusting Frank, she signed the document without reading it, and that its one-sidedness renders it invalid (the team is worth much, much more than the houses). Frank’s side says the document is valid, and has pointed out that since Jamie is, herself, a lawyer it is hard to believe that she did not know what she was signing.

Earlier this month another Los Angeles judge, acting as a mediator, presented both sides with a proposed settlement, Bloomberg reports. Attorneys for Frank and Jamie are due to submit their responses to that proposal by the end of November in anticipation of a December court hearing.

This latest development in what some observers believe may become the most expensive divorce in Southern California history is a useful reminder of an often overlooked aspect of Los Angeles and Orange County divorce law. It is popularly assumed that the legal dissolution of a marriage and the final settlement of a couple’s affairs must happen in tandem, but, as the McCourt case demonstrates, this is not actually the case. This, in turn, highlights the important role your Orange County divorce lawyer can play in offering advice as you consider the best way to proceed with a Southern California divorce. Whether or not to go to trial and whether to move ahead with a divorce decree before outstanding settlement issues are resolved are both crucial decisions that may end up defining the very nature of your California divorce. They are best made only after careful consultation with an experienced Orange County family law attorney.

Bloomberg Businessweek: L.A. Dodgers Owner McCourt is Officially Divorced