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Jamie and Frank McCourt in divorce court after the divorce

Pennsylvania readers undoubtedly are aware of two year long divorce battle between Frank and Jamie McCourt. Frank is the former owner of the Dodgers MLB franchise. The couple finally reached an agreement in Oct. 2011, resulting in final settlement of the divorce. Jamie McCourt apparently received a $131 million settlement, though she is now headed back to court on the west coast amid claims of fraud in the divorce negotiations.

According to Jamie, Frank represented the value of the Dodgers to be below $300 million. She says she relied on that figure in reaching the divorce settlement. However, less than six months later the franchise was reportedly sold for $2.15 billion, admittedly a figure far beyond the one Jamie claims was used during negotiations.

It is claimed that attempts to readjust the divorce settlement voluntarily were ignored by Frank. Accordingly, Jamie has requested a California court to set aside the settlement. In the first instance, she asserts fraud concerning the valuation of the baseball franchise. In the alternative, she claims the couple made a mutual and material mistake that requires correction.

While it remains to be seen what the court will decide, the burden of proof is squarely on Jamie to convince the court that fraud or mutual mistake occurred. Whether in Pennsylvania or elsewhere, courts can and do act when the evidence clearly documents that one party acted fraudulently or both parties made a mistake concerning an important issue. However, courts are typically reluctant to undo a divorce that has already been finalized and will likely require clear-cut evidence of fraud before undoing what has already been resolved.

Source: BloombergBusinessweek, “Jamie McCourt Calls Divorce Payout Unfair After Dodgers Sale,” Edvard Pettersson, Sept. 27, 2012

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