Settlement talks in 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>
May 6, 2008 5:57:31 PM PDT
Lawyers representing the nation's first openly gay governor and his estranged wife ended the first day of their scheduled divorce trial reporting progress in settlement talks. The talks are to resume Wednesday afternoon. Testimony was delayed to allow the discussions to take place.

"We are happy to report on behalf of both of our clients that they have made progress toward settling their case," said John Post, lawyer for Dina Matos McGreevey, who read from a joint statement issued by him and Stephen Haller, lawyer for former Gov. Jim McGreevey. "We continue to work to that end."

Post spoke to reporters outside the Union County Courthouse Tuesday afternoon after nearly seven hours of meetings between the two sides and Superior Court Judge Karen Cassidy.

The former governor and his wife split in 2004 after he resigned in disgrace over a gay affair.

The two have openly discussed details of their personal lives and traded catty comments in the 3½ years since their breakup. But despite admonishments from the judge overseeing their divorce that they settle the case, the couple had until Tuesday declined to engage in serious talks.

Neither side would say whether a settlement was near, but Haller noted the grins on both lawyers' faces as they recessed for the day.

Issues to be decided involve custody of the couple's 6-year-old daughter, alimony and child support, and whether McGreevey, now openly gay, committed fraud by marrying a woman.

McGreevey, 50, and his wife, 41, left the courthouse through separate doors without saying anything. Their lawyers, however, appeared to be on friendly terms. The two even took a lunchtime stroll together outside court.

"Getting a little air," said Haller.

The first three days of the trial were scheduled to be held outside the glare of cameras and the media as Cassidy considered custody issues. The judge has sealed all documents and testimony about the kindergartner - the couple's only child together.

McGreevey wants joint custody and has proposed that the girl alternate weeks with each parent. McGreevey now has his daughter one night a week and alternate weekends and holidays.

McGreevey stepped down during his first term in office after a nationally televised speech in which he acknowledged being "a gay American" and said he had an affair with a male staffer. The staffer has denied the affair and claims he was sexually harassed by McGreevey.

Matos McGreevey claims she never knew her husband was gay until just before he told the rest of the world. He claims their marriage was "a contrivance on both our parts," but that he fulfilled the marriage contract by providing companionship and a child.

Matos McGreevey is seeking $600,000 for time she would have spent at the governor's mansion had her husband not resigned in disgrace.

The dissolution of the McGreeveys' marriage has long been tabloid fodder, fueled in large part by the couple themselves.

Paul Talbert, a New York matrimonial lawyer, said the McGreevey case is unique because both partners seem intent on revealing intimate details of their personal lives to hurt the other.

"The reason this is going to trial - there are not complex legal issues here - is because there are two very angry, embarrassed people looking to save face with a judgment in their favor," said Talbert. "I suspect neither party will be vindicated at the end of this trial."

Since splitting up months after his resignation in 2004, both McGreevey and his soon-to-be-ex wrote books about their lives together, including their sex lives. Both promoted their books during splashy appearances on Oprah Winfrey's television show.

McGreevey once criticized an outfit his wife wore on television, and she forced him to remove a large photograph of a nude man that hung over his bed when their daughter was to visit.

If the trial moves ahead, it promises to become more salacious.

The biggest bombshell in the case so far has been claims by a 29-year-old ex-campaign aide that he had regular sexual encounters with the McGreeveys.

Teddy Pedersen, 29, said the encounters began while the McGreeveys were dating in 1999 and ended two years later, after they were married and McGreevey had been elected governor.

McGreevey said the encounters happened; Matos McGreevey denied them. Her attorney is seeking to bar Pedersen's testimony on the matter.

McGreevey now lives with a male partner and is studying to be an Episcopal priest.

Matos McGreevey, who until recently worked at Columbus Hospital in Newark, can often be seen providing commentary on cable television shows, most recently providing analysis when New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned amid a prostitution scandal.