Gay Ex-New Jersey Governor’s Divorce Heats Up, Heading to Trial 1

McGreevey and Dina Matos
While all eyes are on the prostitution scandal involving former New York governor Eliot Spitzer, ex-New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey and his estranged wife Dina Matos McGreevey continue to battle over every detail of their divorce case, almost three and a half years after they first separated. This past weekend, Theodore Pederson, a potential witness in the case, revealed that he was involved in regular sexual threesomes with the McGreeveys from 1999 to 2001 – both before and after their marriage in 2000. Pederson, a former campaign aide to McGreevey, casts doubts on Matos McGreevey’s claim that she was in the dark about her husband’s homosexual preference until just before he resigned as governor in August 2004. Pederson is expected to be called as a witness in the divorce trial, scheduled to begin in May.


McGreevey resigned as governor after admitting to a homosexual relationship with a staff member (not Pederson). Matos McGreevey claims that her estranged husband duped her into marriage in 2000 to further his political career. Although McGreevey and his wife separated when he left the governor’s mansion in November 2004, divorce papers were not filed until early 2007. McGreevey now lives with his partner of several years, Mark O’Donnell.
The McGreeveys have been very regular visitors to the courthouse, as well as fixtures in the media, since the divorce was filed. Matos McGreevey responded to the divorce filing by filing a civil suit against the ex-governor, alleging fraud and seeking over $600,000 in monetary damages.

Repeated Appearances in Court

The McGreeveys have seemingly argued about every endless detail of the divorce case. They have been lectured by the judge on numerous occasions and even had to hire a parenting coordinator (also referred to as a case manager in some courts) to mediate their all too regular, day-to-day disagreements over their six year old daughter, Jacqueline. Examples of the arguments that had to be resolved by court order in this case:

  • Whether Jacqueline would be allowed to attend a birthday party organized for her by her father.
  • How many psychologists will be allowed to evaluate Jacqueline for purposes of custody evaluation. (McGreevey wants shared custody of his daughter, as opposed to his current visitation schedule of every other weekend and one night a week.)
  • Which parent would be responsible for transporting Jacqueline to and from her father’s home for his visitation.

Legal Issues

New Jersey has two no-fault divorce provisions, separation for eighteen consecutive months or irreconcilable differences. There are seven grounds for fault-based divorce under New Jersey law – extreme cruelty, adultery, addiction, imprisonment, desertion, institutionalization and deviant sexual conduct. While McGreevey filed first and likely sought a no-fault divorce, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that his wife filed a counterpetition alleging adultery. It is unlikely, however, that the custody or property division will be affected greatly by McGreevey’s philandering or by his homosexuality (in fact, the judge has expressly stated that McGreevey’s sexual orientation will have no bearing on her decisions). The court will consider a host of factors in reaching its custody, support and property distribution decisions.

Matos McGreevey, in addition to seeking monetary damages for her husband’s alleged fraud in deceiving her into a sham marriage, also appears to be fighting for higher child support (and possibly alimony/spousal support). She is currently receiving $2,500 a month in temporary support. She is expected to argue that McGreevey is “underemployed” – that he is capable of making much more money based upon his education and experience but has voluntarily chosen to make a lower income. McGreevey is a licensed attorney but is currently attending seminary to become an Episcopal priest. Matos McGreevey has also subpoenaed McGreevey and O’Donnell’s joint bank accounts in an attempt to discover income that McGreevey may be hiding.

Matos McGreevey recently publicly empathized with ex-New York governor Eliot Spitzer’s wife, Silda, and offered her advice and support. Hopefully the Spitzers, if they do end up in family court, will have more sense than the McGreeveys and won’t air their every grievance to the public.