Texas couples contemplating divorce may want to consider the ramifications of settlement terms and language. A case involving former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt and his ex-wife is an excellent example of this issue. Their divorce settlement in 2012 awarded Mrs. McCourt $131 million as well as luxury homes. However, she contested the settlement after her ex-husband later that year sold the baseball team for $2 billion. Her grounds for contesting revolved around the concern that he had shortchanged the team’s value at the time of the divorce.
In September 2013, a judge rejected this claim. However, language in the original settlement assigned responsibility for legal fees resulting from such a dispute to any party contesting the terms. As a result, Mr. McCourt sought reimbursement of nearly $2 million in legal fees. In April, lawyers for his ex-spouse argued that this amount was excessive, but in a June decision, the judge presiding over the case determined that Mrs. McCourt was responsible for these costs. He reiterated the clarity of the terms in the initial agreement and their intent to prevent further litigation. He also noted that Mrs. McCourt was not unaware of the value of the Dodgers due to her involvement in team operations and access to accounting and legal professionals.
Property division concerns related to a divorce may arise after a settlement, especially if one spouse discovers that another may have hidden or undervalued assets in order to affect the outcome. It is important to take note of language such as that used in the McCourt case so that an awareness of financial implications is considered in the event of the decision to contest a settlement.
Legal assistance throughout the process may be important, especially if significant assets are at stake. A lawyer may also be of value if information about hidden assets surfaces.
Source: ABC News, “Judge Favors Frank McCourt in Divorce Fees Fight“, Anthony McCartney, June 26, 2014