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Final Frank and Jamie McCourt divorce trial? Wait till next year

Frank and Jamie McCourt expect to settle their divorce — and with it the question of who owns the Dodgers — in a trial during the 2012 baseball season.

The trial is expected to start next spring or summer and last 30 to 45 days, a timetable set forth by attorneys on both sides after a hearing Wednesday at Los Angeles Superior Court.

Frank McCourt claims sole ownership of the Dodgers and ex-wife Jamie claims half-ownership. It is unclear when the Dodgers will emerge from federal bankruptcy protection. After the Dodgers took a $150-million bankruptcy loan from Major League Baseball, Frank McCourt’s attorneys said the team had funding to operate until well into next season.

Although Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon could decide ownership of the team before the bankruptcy proceedings end, he emphasized Wednesday that “the ultimate question of the disposition of the Dodgers” would need to wait for a resolution in Bankruptcy Court.

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“Until it gets out of bankruptcy, the baseball team cannot be sold by this court,” Gordon said.

Frank McCourt hopes to retain control of the Dodgers. Gordon’s comment was in response to the suggestion of David Boies, an attorney for Jamie McCourt, that the Dodgers’ parent company could be ordered sold, with the team part of the purchase. Boies said he intends to file a motion with the Bankruptcy Court seeking clarification of whether the parent company could be sold with the team included.

The 2012 trial would resolve all remaining issues, including team ownership, permanent support and division of assets. Frank McCourt hopes to show the Dodgers are his alone by tracing their ownership to a company he founded before marriage, an effort both sides said would require tracking funds for more than three decades.

“This case is entering a phase which in many ways can be the most expensive and complex part of litigation,” Gordon said. Attorney fees in the case could reach $35 million, The Times reported in July.

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On Wednesday, the sides agreed Frank McCourt would pay $225,000 per month in temporary spousal support — eliminating the $412,000 per month he has been paying to maintain the couple’s residential properties — pending a November hearing.

One of the couple’s two Holmby Hills homes was sold last month, and money from that sale will fill the support gap. Two properties in Massachusetts and another in Montana are for sale, according to court documents.

The McCourts are scheduled to return to court Nov. 17 and 18, when Gordon is expected to hear arguments on spousal support and attorney fees and set a trial date.

bill.shaikin@latimes.com


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