Posts Tagged ‘Frank McCourt’

The bitter divorce trial between power couple Frank and Jamie McCourt has captured headlines because the prize in the proceedings is ownership of the Los Angeles Dodgers Major League Baseball team. But testimony from a family attorney underscores the importance of notarization and demonstrates the tangle that can occur when the highest standards of professional care and ethical conduct are not followed.

Attorney Larry Silverstein admitted under oath that he altered a post-nuptial agreement after it was signed and notarized. The one-word change would give Frank McCourt sole ownership of the Dodgers. The fact that the agreement had been notarized helped establish a timeline for events and shined the light on the attorney’s actions, which he claimed were intended to correct an honest mistake. But the whole point of following proper procedure as well as legal and ethical standards is to make sure our actions can stand up to scrutiny and imbue transactions with greater trustworthiness and reliability.

If a material change is made to a contract or agreement that has already been signed and notarized, the document would have to be re-signed and notarized again. Re-notarization would be important to ensure that both parties were signing the agreement willingly without duress and that they understood what they were signing.

This case has brought to light the importance of a notarized agreement and what can happen when a small change is made without the client’s knowledge.  Not only is this the wrong thing to do, it can cause substantial problems to the client and the attorney.  When you sign a document before a notary, it is always a good idea to make a copy of what you signed so there can be no questions later about the document.

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You thought your attorney fees were high! Frank and Jamie McCourt‘s divorce could become one of the costliest splits in California history, with attorneys and accountants commanding as much as $19 million in fees — more than the Dodgers will spend on their starting infield this season.CEO and Owner of the Dodgers, McCourt

Frank McCourt has estimated his “divorce-related expenses” at $5 million to $10 million, according to court filings. Jamie McCourt has estimated her expenses at $9 million — and asked that her estranged husband be ordered to pay them.

Although records of salaries and statistics are omnipresent in baseball, specific information about divorce costs is largely unavailable. The Times consulted with several family law experts, none of whom could recall a divorce costing $19 million.

“I’m pretty sure there’s not been any litigation in a California divorce where they’ve spent so much on attorneys’ fees,” said Lynn Soodik, a Santa Monica family law attorney who represented Meg Ryan in her divorce from Dennis Quaid.

Soodik said it was “very unusual” that each of the McCourts has retained multiple law firms. Seven lawyers appeared in court last month for a hearing on whether to postpone the trial date, on the same day other lawyers in the case were said to be conducting a deposition of Jamie McCourt.

Connolly Oyler, another Santa Monica attorney with experience in celebrity divorces, said a total cost of $5 million would be “consistent with most high-profile cases.”

Even though we are talking a high profile case here, the amount of attorney fees might seem high for even this case. However, when you look at the fact that Mr. McCourt owns over 33 entities with countless financial documents to review, one can see how quickly the fees might add up. In Southern California where the jurisdiction for this divorce is located, attorneys charge from $250 and hour to $700 an hour and a “simple” divorce can run $10,000. Britney Spears recent divorce from Kevin Federline is reported to have cost $835,000 and we all know how contentious that case started out.

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