What you can learn from former Dodgers CEO Jamie McCourt: don’t sign your separation agreement before you’re sure!

Husbands can be tricky. That’s part of the reason why our law firm is dedicated to helping women only in divorce and custody cases. We’ve seen some terrible, terrible things happen, and we wanted to do what we could to help prevent these things from continuing to happen.

When I started, I was amazed at some of the tactics I saw employed by husbands desperate to trick their unsuspecting wives out of what was rightfully theirs. Now that I’m a little older and a little wiser, I’m rarely surprised, but I am concerned for all the women out there who don’t know exactly what a sneaky husband will try.

Whatever he tells you, you need to make sure you verify the facts for yourself. Once you sign an agreement, there is no going back. Whatever you agree to in writing, is permanent and binding, and it is unlikely that the court will fail to enforce it. Why? Well, the court likes it when people settle their disputes between themselves. When two competent adults memorialize their agreement in writing, the court doesn’t have to get involved. But what would happen if the court got involved every time one of the parties was later upset by what she agreed to? There would never be any sense of finality; everyone would always be looking over their shoulders, wondering whether their agreement would stick. That kind of uncertainty would be terrible! So, in order to protect the people negotiating and signing contracts and encourage them to continue to work out their problems between themselves, the court mostly stays out of it.

Still, it’s not fair when husbands trick their wives into signing agreements that are less than fair, and it happens all the time. Just an example: on September 10th, the Virginian Pilot published a (very brief) article about a woman named Jamie McCourt, the former Dodgers CEO, who claimed that her ex husband, the former Dodger’s owner Frank McCourt, misled her about the value of the team. In her divorce settlement she received $131 million dollars, but the team later sold for $2 billion! She contended that she was shortchanged by a total of $770 million because of her husband’s misrepresentation. Unfortunately for Ms. McCourt, the judge ruled that she didn’t present enough evidence to show that she should get more than what she received.

Charlie Hofheimer always says that most husbands will lie, cheat, and steal in their divorces. Though that’s a pretty inflammatory thing to say, I do agree with Charlie that its best to stay on your toes when you’re dealing with your soon-to-be ex. Keep things pleasant and cordial, but don’t assume that he’s telling the truth or that he even knows what he’s talking about. Read everything, don’t sign anything until you’ve had it reviewed by your attorney, and make sure you truly understand the implications of your agreement. Ask questions! Be wary. And learn from the Jamie McCourts of the world.

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