No settlement 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 7, 2008 5:07:08 PM PDT
Former New Jersey Gov. James E. McGreevey and his estranged wife failed on Wednesday to reach a settlement in their divorce case, setting the stage for testimony to begin in a trial on Thursday. Dina Matos McGreevey and her lawyer, John N. Post, left the Union County Courthouse shortly after 6 p.m. "There is not a settlement at this point," Post said.

He said the judge told them to return in the morning to begin taking testimony in the case. The first portion of the testimony will be closed because it involves custody of the couple's 6-year-old daughter.

Asked if custody was the sticking point, Post said: "There are a number of sticking points."

Matos McGreevey, as is her custom, did not speak.

A few minutes later, McGreevey left, escorted by two uniformed sheriff's officers and surrounded by television cameras and reporters.

"Hopefully, we can come to a meeting of the minds and move forward," the former governor said as he walked away from the courthouse.

His lawyer, Stephen P. Haller, stood to take questions and said there were no further meetings scheduled. However, "It is capable of resolution," he said.

"We've made a small amount of progress today; not as much as yesterday," Haller said.

"Two parents have a difference of opinion," Haller added. "If there's moderation, there'll be a resolution."

He declined to say what issues remain, but said, "Jim is a man very, very dedicated to his daughter."

Settlement talks between the two parties began on Tuesday, and earlier Wednesday had been described as "congenial" by a court spokeswoman - a stark contrast to the couple's previous courtroom appearances.

Court spokeswoman Sandra Thaler-Gerber said the couple were working on the custody issues first before tackling other matters such as child support and alimony, and a marriage fraud claim by Matos McGreevey.

New Jersey's former first couple and their lawyers had spent nearly seven hours Tuesday and four hours on Wednesday in discussions with state Superior Court Judge Karen Cassidy about how to dissolve their four-year marriage.

A central issue involves custody of the McGreeveys' daughter, Jacqueline. He wants a 50-50 custody split, and has suggested the kindergartner spend alternate weeks with each parent. He currently sees his daughter one night a week and alternate weekends and holidays.

New York matrimonial lawyer Paul Talbert said the judge will look at what living arrangement best suits the child in determining custody. The parents' proximity to the child's school and friends, their ability to provide child care and the stability of each home will be among the considerations weighed, he said.

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

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.

In the 3½ years since their breakup, their lives have become a public spectacle fueled in part by the McGreeveys themselves. He took up residence at the home of his boyfriend and began studying for the Episcopal priesthood while she became a sometime analyst on cable television shows.

Both wrote tell-all books and promoted them with splashy appearances on Oprah Winfrey's show.

Their divorce trial technically began Tuesday, but Cassidy suspended testimony so the talks could take place.

Despite the judge's repeated urgings that the McGreeveys settle the case to avoid the embarrassment and financial burden of a trial, neither side seemed ready to engage in serious talks until Tuesday.

If the trial moves ahead, one possible witness is a former campaign aide who claims to have had three-way sexual encounters with the McGreeveys.

The one-time driver, 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.

Associated Press writer Angela Delli Santi in Elizabeth contributed to this story.