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Thursday, September 30, 2010

McCourt Divorce Trial Concludes with Fate of the Dodgers Hanging in the Balance

This week, the 11-day divorce trial of Frank and Jamie McCourt, the owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers, came to a close. One of the most contentious points to be decided in this trial is the couple's bitterly contested marital property agreement, which will ultimately decide how their assets will be distributed. The disputed assets include ownership of the Dodgers, Dodger Stadium, and approximately 300 acres of property around the ballpark. The judge has 90 days to issue his ruling on the case.

It appears that the couple signed two conflicting versions of the marital property agreement. In one version, Frank is awarded sole ownership over the Dodgers. In the other, the team is classified as "community property" which would require ownership of the team to be shared equally by both parties.

Jamie McCourt's attorneys have argued that the purpose of the marital property agreement was to protect the couple's homes from business creditors. During their 30 year marriage, the couple regularly placed all of the businesses in Frank's name and the title to their homes in Jamie's name in order to accomplish this goal. However, the marital property agreement was also intended to ensure that the McCourts maintained the same rights they enjoyed while living for many years in Boston. Under Massachusetts law, all marital assets acquired during the marriage are divided equally, regardless of who holds the title.

Frank McCourt's attorneys vehemently argued that the marital property agreement affording Frank sole ownership of the Dodgers was in fact the legitimate agreement. They claim that Jamie never desired to be the legal owner or primary financial stakeholder in the Dodgers. Furthermore, they insist that this version of the agreement was her idea. However, as a practicing family law attorney for many years, it seems unlikely that Jamie McCourt would sign away her rights to such a valuable asset without receiving fair compensation in return.

As the judge begins to deliberate over the arguments brought forth by each side, the fate of the Dodgers hangs in the balance. Ultimately, in the short term, the franchise may be the big loser since the ownership dispute will most likely not be resolved before off-season free agent signings begin, and many high profile players may be hesitant to sign with a team mired in such uncertainty.

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