California sports fans may be familiar with the former owner of the L.A. Dodgers, Frank McCourt. Like many Americans, McCourt divorced later in life after being married to his wife, Jamie McCourt, for almost three decades. Unlike many Americans, however, the couple’s divorce settlement contained a clause designed to help deter both members of the couple from pursuing further litigation once the division of property was finalized. Jamie McCourt was awarded $131 million tax-free and ownership of several luxury homes. As part of the divorce agreement, though, any member who chose to pursue litigation after the settlement would pay the other’s court costs.
Jamie McCourt later opted to challenge the agreement. Her lawyers said that Frank McCourt had misrepresented the value of the Dodgers, making it so Jamie was awarded less than she was entitled to. A judge denied the claims, and Jamie was ordered to reimburse Frank the $1.9 million he spent in court costs defending the action.
Her lawyers challenged that ruling too, saying that Frank’s court costs were excessive, but the claims were again denied. The judge in the case noted that the agreement was a meticulous one. It was made over time and took into account input from both parties and their respective attorneys. In addition, the agreement did not stipulate a maximum court cost to be paid.
For those who are going through divorce, especially in cases where considerable assets are involved, it may be helpful to consult with a lawyer about including a provision that works to deter either spouse from challenging the settlement. With the help of a lawyer, it may be possible to design an agreement that is thorough and will stand up in court.
Source: ABC News, “Judge Favors Frank McCourt in Divorce Fees Fight”, Anthony McCartney, June 26, 2014