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Legal fees awarded in McCourt divorce contest

Arizona residents dealing with divorce issues may be interested in the importance of settlement language in a high-profile case. A judge has ruled that the former wife of Frank McCourt must pay his legal fees of nearly $2 million related to her contesting the couple's 2012 divorce settlement. The former owner of the Dodgers sold the team for $2 billion in the same year that the divorce was finalized. Jamie McCourt later contested the settlement based on the claim that her ex-husband undervalued the team at the time of their divorce.

The judge rejected the claim in September 2013. In April, he heard arguments from Mrs. McCourt's lawyers that the legal fees sought were excessive. Language in the divorce settlement provided that any party contesting the agreement would pay the legal expenses incurred by the other party. On June 24, the judge noted that the language in the divorce settlement made the terms clear and that the intent was to avert additional litigation in the matter. He also emphasized that Mrs. McCourt was assisted by legal and accounting professionals at the time of the settlement and that she was very involved in the operation of the baseball team.

As a result of the 2012 settlement, Jamie McCourt received more than $130 million free of tax obligations. She was also awarded several properties acquired during the marriage. The current ruling will be finalized if there are no objections filed within 15 days.

Divorce issues can become emotional and complicated, but it is important to pay attention to details prior to accepting a settlement, especially if language to be included in a settlement is intended to prevent further litigation. If a settlement agreement is confusing, it may be important to work with a lawyer to review its terms and implications carefully before signing.

Source: ABC News, "Judge Favors Frank McCourt in Divorce Fees Fight", Anthony McCartney, June 26, 2014

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