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Wednesday, August 15, 2012 - Page updated at 07:30 p.m.
McDermott divorce goes to trial next week
By Jim Brunner
Seattle Times political reporter
As he campaigns for a 13th term this fall, Democratic Seattle Congressman Jim McDermott also is facing an acrimonious divorce that has dragged on for more than a year and is scheduled to go to trial next week.
McDermott filed for divorce in August 2011 from Therese Hansen, his second wife. His congressional office announced the split in a brief news release, asking for privacy. Early on, both parties indicated a desire to quickly and quietly settle the case and move on with their lives.
What ensued instead has been an increasingly heated and expensive back-and-forth battle played out in public-court filings in King County Superior Court over the past several months.
Hansen and her attorney have accused McDermott of concealing assets at the outset of their marriage and stonewalling discovery requests for financial documents and personal diaries during the case.
"Petitioner is an influential U.S. Congressman who apparently believes the rules don't apply to him, they only apply to his wife," Hansen's attorney, Gail Wahrenberger, wrote in a June legal filing.
McDermott, 75, denied he'd hidden anything, and accused Hansen, 57, of having a vendetta, saying in one court declaration: "I have no idea what sort of a witch hunt she is on."
McDermott did not respond to requests for comment through his congressional office and attorney.
In an email, Hansen asked for privacy, calling the divorce "a purely personal matter. ... We are struggling through and are almost at resolution."
The dispute centers on whether a prenuptial agreement signed by Hansen and McDermott in 1997 should be enforced.
The agreement entitled Hansen to 55 percent of the couple's joint assets, which are valued at about $2.5 million, according to court filings.
But Hansen has sought to void the prenup, claiming McDermott concealed some assets from her when they were negotiating the agreement, including federal and state retirement accounts.
She said in court filings she has suffered financial hardship as the case has dragged on, racking up more than $91,000 in legal costs as of July, and having to rely on credit cards and family loans to get by. She has asked that McDermott pay her legal bills.
A judge recently ordered McDermott to pay Hansen $50,000 to help cover her expenses, according to court records.
McDermott argued that Hansen knew what she was getting into with the prenup, noting she is an attorney and worked as a partner in a Seattle law firm. (Hansen left the high-paying legal job in 2006 to work for African aid groups at much lower pay.)
The case has been expensive for McDermott, too. He listed legal costs at more than $71,000 as of early July.
Despite the apparent acrimony in the case, Hansen told the court she had no intention of trying to harm McDermott politically.
"I am proud of Petitioner's long career as a public servant. ... I will vote for him, just as I have every two years since I moved to Seattle in 1989," Hansen wrote in an April 16 declaration.
Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @Jim_Brunner.
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