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Love and Baseball and Marriage and Money

With the new baseball season upon us, now is a good time to look back on the moment when the resurgence of a Major League Baseball team converged with divorce and prenuptial agreement law.

In 2011, the West Coast billionaire power couple who owned the Los Angeles Dodgers filed for divorce. At the time, the team was in bankruptcy and the franchise's value was lower than it had been in many years. The wife, who was then a co-owner, agreed to relinquish her share of the franchise in exchange for “the security of a guaranteed $131 million payment, plus more than $50 million in real and personal property,” according to a court ruling.

Several years later, after the acquisition of several high-profile players and a nearly unprecedented revival, the husband sold the team for a whopping $2.15 billion. His ex-wife sued for roughly $900 million, which she claimed should have been her share of the sales proceeds. To get out of the prior agreement, she claimed that her husband had misled her about the team's value.

Upon review of the approximately 220,000 pages of documents that he submitted during the divorce, the court ultimately sided with the husband, and even ordered the wife to pay an additional $1.9 million in legal fees.

Spousal Agreements

Even though California is a community property state and Illinois is an equitable distribution state, they are both Uniform Premarital Agreement Act states, so in this area, roughly the same law applies in both jurisdictions.

Both states have something else in common: voluntary agreements between spouses receive considerable deference from judges. In order to overturn such a pact, the challenging party must show evidence of:

  • Involuntariness: Some states have a list of factors that would show involuntariness, but in Illinois, such a determination in almost entirely within the judge's discretion.
  • Unconscionable: Not only must the division be so uneven as to shock the conscience, it must have been unconscionable when it was made. In the above example, when the 2011 property agreement was signed, it was not deemed unconscionable.

The UPAA contains a severability provision, which means that if one part of a premarital agreement is subsequently declared invalid, all other provisions remain in effect.

Spousal agreements that conform to the UPAA are nearly ironclad in most cases. For a confidential consultation, contact an experienced Naperville family law attorney. We routinely handle property division matters throughout Chicagoland.

Sources:

http://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgers/dodgersnow/la-sp-dn-dodgers-jamie-mccourt-divorce-loses-appeal-20150226-story.html

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=2087&

http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=fam&group=01001-02000&file=1610-1617

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