Southern California Family Law Courts Favor Jamie in High-Profile McCourt Divorce

On Tuesday Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon issued a key ruling in the seemingly endless, blockbuster divorce of LA Dodgers owners Frank and Jamie McCourt. According to the Los Angeles Times, Judge Gordon invalidated the postnuptial agreement (technically known as a Marital Property Agreement, or MPA) signed by the couple in 2004.

MPA’s, like a prenuptial agreement, are meant to remove agreed-upon assets from the purview of community property laws in California and other states. Under the terms of the McCourt post-nup Frank would, in the event of a California divorce, retain sole ownership of the baseball team while Jamie became sole owner of the couple’s numerous homes. Granted that a 50% interest in the Dodgers would be worth immensely more than the couple’s reportedly large collection of houses Jamie held that the agreement was unfair and, therefore, invalid.

Perversely, both McCourts claimed to have neither read nor understood the document before signing it. Judge Gordon rejected this testimony as “not credible,” but focused his ruling on a more troubling legal issue. Specifically, in holding that the MPA does “not conform to California law” he cited the fact that Frank’s Boston-based lawyer, who drew up the document, altered it after both McCourts had signed it and without telling either of them. “The Court finds that there has not been sufficient evidence presented to indicate which of the two materially inconsistent MPA’s represented the actual intent of the parties,” the judge wrote, according to the Times.

All of this, as the paper noted in a separate analysis, does not necessarily mean that Jamie now owns half of the team – she says she does, but Frank’s lawyers have other arguments for his claim to sole ownership. It does mean that the issue will now be adjudicated during the next phase of their divorce trial. As I noted last month, the couple’s California divorce recently became final despite the large number of outstanding property issues that remain to be resolved.

If there is any lesson for the rest of us to take away from this ongoing saga it is of the importance of careful legal work. When seeking an Orange County divorce attorney it is important that clients carefully consider the experience level of a prospective lawyer and ensure that they are both comfortable with and have a high level of confidence in, their choice.

Los Angeles Times: Judge’s ruling in favor of Jamie McCourt is based on legal fundamentals

Los Angeles Times: Questions and answers about the McCourt ruling

USA Today: Judge invalidates McCourt agreement, leaving Dodgers ownership in question