Judge gets McGreevey divorce case

<div class="meta image-caption"><div class="origin-logo origin-image none"><span>none</span></div><span class="caption-text">Judge Karen Cassidy listens as former New Jersey Gov. James E. McGreevey testifies at his divorce trial at the Union County Courthouse in Elizabeth, N.J.on Wednesday, May 14,2008. He began testimony saying he proposed writing a book with his estranged wife, but she turned him down and later wrote her own memoir.&#40;AP Photo&#47;John O&#39;Boyle, pool&#41;</span></div>
June 4, 2008 1:48:06 PM PDT
It's now up to a judge to decide how much alimony and child support to award the soon-to-be ex-wife of New Jersey's gay ex-governor, following three weeks of testimony laying bare the couple's dire finances. Lawyers delivered their final arguments Wednesday, wrapping up the money phase in the bitter divorce of Jim McGreevey and Dina Matos.

Matos has asked the judge for $2,500 a month alimony for four years, $1,750 a month support, and for McGreevey to foot her legal bills for the divorce, which exceed $250,000. McGreevey does not want to pay alimony, and is hoping to be assessed support payments of about $100 a month based on state guidelines factoring in the incomes of both parents and their custody arrangements.

The judge is not expected to rule until July, at the earliest.

A final phase in the divorce - Matos' claim that she was duped into marrying a gay man who thought he needed a wife to advance his political ambitions - won't be heard until after the money issues are settled. The fraud claim, if it reaches trial, could include salacious testimony from a former campaign aide who claims to have had sexual trysts with the McGreeveys.

During Wednesday's summation, Matos' lawyer John Post challenged McGreevey's claim that he's broke, saying the 50-year-old seminary student is intentionally under-earning to avoid paying alimony. Post also dismissed a claim by a McGreevey-hired employment expert who testified that the ex-gov is so tainted by scandal that he's "radioactive" in the work world.

"He finds himself where he is today because he is doing work he wants to do," said Post, who called McGreevey's dire financial situation "a contrived farce."

McGreevey lawyer Stephen Haller said his client doesn't owe Matos a dime in alimony based on a marriage lasting just four years before the couple split in 2004.

"We've got a marriage so short that kids date longer than these two were married," he said.

Matos and McGreevey are both deeply in debt, their grim finances made ever more difficult by exorbitant legal bills incurred in the divorce. Matos, who lost her job as a hospital fundraiser when the hospital closed last week, testified to owing about $750,000 for a mortgage, personal loan and legal bills. McGreevey said he owed his boyfriend more than $200,000, mostly for lawyers, and is $11,000 behind in support for a daughter from his first marriage. Neither have any savings.

Haller accused Matos' accountant of concocting reports on McGreevey's earning potential and lifestyle using "imaginary numbers."

He continued in summation a fierce attack on the accountant, Kalman Barson, who estimated the cost of replicating the lifestyle Matos enjoyed as wife of the governor at $51,000 a month. Haller has asked the judge to toss the report as unreliable and fictitious.

Post swung back during his conclusion, attacking some assumptions of McGreevey financial expert Sharyn Maggio as "preposterous."

The two sides were at odds throughout the trial over whether McGreevey could cash in on his notoriety. Barson testified that McGreevey's celebrity status is worth $1.4 million through book deals, lectures and legal work. Maggio said the ex-governor enjoyed no enhanced earning potential based on the McGreevey name.

Post dismissed the argument that McGreevey is unable to find work, saying even Richard Nixon wrote books and made money on the lecture circuit after resigning the presidency under the glare of impeachment.

"The notion that there is some notoriety or disgrace that can't be overcome if the person wants to do it is another flaw in Ms. Maggio's analysis," Post said.

Haller said the concept of celebrity goodwill cuts both ways, noting that Matos was given a $275,000 advance for her book.

"If she had not married Jim McGreevey and he had not resigned in disgrace, please tell me who would have been interested in the ruminations of a fundraiser for Columbus Hospital? Her prominence elevates because of his downfall," Haller said.

McGreevey abruptly resigned in 2004, acknowledging in a nationally televised speech that he is "a gay American" who had an affair with a male staffer. The staffer denied the affair and said he was sexually harassed by the governor.

The McGreeveys split three months after the speech, leaving the governor's mansion and going their separate ways. She borrowed heavily to buy a $430,000 house in Springfield; he's now openly gay, living in a house his boyfriend owns.

Part of her alimony claim was staked on the fact that she would have lived as New Jersey's first lady for 13 additional months had her husband not resigned in disgrace. McGreevey maintained that the so-called gubernatorial lifestyle was not a marital asset.

Matos later backed off the claim that she was entitled to a compensation package that included the value of a personal assistant, chef and round-the-clock state police protection, all perks of the governor's office.


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