Matos makes pitch for alimony

May 30, 2008 5:23:31 PM PDT
The estranged wife of New Jersey's gay former governor tried to convince a divorce judge she's entitled to alimony Friday, saying her personal finances are a wreck while her husband lives in a mansion paid for by his boyfriend. Dina Matos said her mortgage, legal bills and a $100,000 loan from a friend have left her deeply in debt. She said she has no savings despite having received $110,000 in tax-free support from former Gov. James McGreevey.

The McGreeveys wed in 2000, but their marriage unraveled after he proclaimed himself "a gay American" in 2004, announced he had had an affair with a male staffer and resigned as governor. The staffer denies the affair and says he was sexually harassed by McGreevey.

Matos wrapped up testimony Friday, as the final witness in the money phase of her nasty divorce. A judge will decide how much to award Matos in alimony and support after lawyers make their final arguments next week.

"I'm happy this part of the case is coming to an end," Matos said Friday, after enduring a heated cross-examination by McGreevey lawyer Stephen Haller.

A final issue in the McGreeveys' bitter breakup - a claim that she was duped into marrying a gay man - has not been scheduled to be heard. That phase could include salacious testimony from a former campaign aide who claims to have had sexual trysts with the couple.

At times combative, defensive and angry on the stand Friday, Matos appeared in the same powder-blue, St. John suit she wore when McGreevey abruptly resigned four years ago. On Wednesday, her first day as a witness, she wore the same red designer suit she wore to McGreevey's 2001 inauguration.

Matos, 41, wants alimony. She has asked the judge to base the payments on the lifestyle she enjoyed as wife of the governor, which included living in the governor's mansion in Princeton, round-the-clock state police security, a staff of household servants, her own secretary and state police driver, and use of two beach houses - one oceanfront, one on the bay.

She paid an expert $20,000 to compile a lifestyle report for the judge estimating the cost of replicating her gubernatorial lifestyle at $51,000 a month. (McGreevey's expert estimated the gubernatorial lifestyle at around $16,000 a month.) McGreevey testified that he's too poor to subsidize such a lavish lifestyle, and Matos later backed off the claim she was seeking to live like she did as New Jersey's first lady.

"I am completely comfortable in my modest home," she said after court. "I don't need a mansion."

McGreevey, 51, lives in a home Matos described as a mansion.

Asked how she knew about the house, Matos said she'd driven by dozens of times and seen glimpses of it on the Oprah Winfrey show, when McGreevey appeared as a guest to promote his memoir. But, she said she has never stepped foot inside and had no intention of doing so despite having been invited by McGreevey and his partner, Mark O'Donnell.

McGreevey testified that he is deeply indebted to O'Donnell, who owns the house and who has been footing the bill for McGreevey's divorce, estimated at more than $400,000 before the trial.

McGreevey is now a seminary student making about $48,000 a year as an adjunct professor and consultant.

Matos testified she will be unemployed as of Saturday, when the hospital at which she makes $82,000 a year as a fund-raiser shuts down. Asked by Haller how she would pay her debts without a job, Matos snapped: "I plan to get a job, unlike your client."

Union County Superior Court Judge Karen Cassidy, who is overseeing the McGreeveys' nonjury trial, asked Matos about several expenses she listed on an income statement, including $700 a month for daycare and $700 a month for travel.

Matos said she bought gifts for her parents as compensation for watching the McGreeveys' only child while she worked. She said she built in money for vacations though she's only been able to afford one trip to Florida since splitting from McGreevey in late 2004.

McGreevey left the courthouse without commenting.

His lawyer, Haller, said McGreevey "regrets laying bare all his family's difficulties" but Matos left him no choice because of her insistence on compensation based on being the governor's wife.

When the McGreeveys married, they lived in a modest Woodbridge condo, Haller said.