What the McGreevey Divorce Can Teach You About Marriage Fraud

ADVERTISEMENT

In August 2004, McGreevey, 50, stepped down from his position as governor of the state of New Jersey after revealing that he was a "gay American" and had engaged in an extra-marital affair with another man. When he made the announcement, his wife, Dina Matos McGreevey, was at his side. Now the two are getting divorced, and are embroiled in a bitter court battle concerning alimony.

McGreevey, who is now studying to become an Episcopal minister, claims he is too poor to provide his estranged wife with support payments. On May 14, in a New Jersey court room, he testified that he has limited income, few assets, and significant debts. He also said he is basically unemployable because of the scandal.

"Because of this case, I have been financially crippled," McGreevey said. He is said to owe a prior divorce lawyer at least $116,000, and has not paid any child support this year. He also said that he relies on his boyfriend Mark O'Donnell to pay legal bills and lifestyle expenses; he lives in a house owned by O'Donnell.

Despite her ex-husband’s financial situation, Matos McGreevey wants alimony. But, McGreevey’s lawyer Stephen Haller says the couple's four year marriage does not qualify for her for alimony. Matos McGreevey says she was duped into marriage by a gay man who needed a wife to advance his political career. She is asking the judge to take into account McGreevey’s marital fraud when making a ruling.

Alimony, like child support, is based off of a person’s income after considering payments like social security, non-refundable business expenses, and taxes. The specifics vary state by state. However, according to Tina Lewert, a family law attorney in Boca Raton, Fla., the general factors relevant to an alimony award include the length of a marriage, the standard of living during a marriage, the age and physical condition of both parties, the financial resources available to both parties, and each party’s contribution to the marriage.

Gary Port, a family law attorney says that in New York, for example, where they award maintenance rather than alimony, if the marriage lasts ten years or more, and the working spouse had a good income, and the non-working spouse has no skills, then the court can order maintenance (and may even order lifetime maintenance). If there is a serious disparity of income, the court can also award maintenance. But, by the same token, if the marriage is short term, or if both spouses earn a reasonable income, then maintenance probably won’t be ordered. Unfortunately for Matos McGreevey, Port says, her fraud argument is unlikely to work. “Punishment for bad behavior is not a factor," says Port. "Time is a factor. The longer the marriage and the more economic opportunities lost by the non-working spouse, the longer the maintenance.”

There are also different types of alimony that can be offered. Spouses awarded alimony in a divorce settlement can receive temporary alimony, rehabilitation alimony which is intended to help get them back on their feet, permanent alimony, reimbursement alimony which pays for divorce expenses, or lump-sum alimony. Port says that in New York, where they call alimony maintenance, support is intended mostly as rehabilitation alimony. “The New York view is that maintenance, we abolished alimony almost 30 years ago, is for rehabilitating the non-working spouse back into the workforce, or providing for a non-working spouse who cannot return to the work force.”

Related Stories:

 

Show Comments

Back to Top