In a recent high profile New Jersey divorce case, an individual named Michael Mandelbaum claimed he was never legally married to his spouse, Deborah Mandelbaum, with whom he had been living for more than 20 years. Last year, Deborah filed for divorce after she obtained a restraining order against Michael for allegedly pushing her down a flight of stairs. The couple had three children and shared a home worth approximately $2 million. Michael Mandelbaum’s father, David Mandelbaum, was part owner of the Minnesota Vikings and was listed as one of the richest people in America, according to Forbes Magazine in 2005. Michael Mandelbaum managed the legal affairs of his family and earned well over $6.6 million in 2012. Overall, the split between Deborah and Michael made headlines by virtue of the millions at stake in their case.

In light of the above, Michael, through his legal counsel, developed a rather creative argument to avoid dividing the marital estate with Deborah as well as paying her alimony. Specifically, Mr. Mandelbaum alleged that his wife’s divorce should be dismissed because technically under the laws of New Jersey, the parties were never legally married, even though they were “married” by a rabbi in 1993. As such, Michael further argued that because the couple had never obtained a marriage license before their wedding, which is the rule in New Jersey, there was no legal marriage. And therefore, the parties could not be legally divorced either, which leaves him on the hook for nothing more than child support. In opposition to Michael’s allegations, Mrs. Mandelbaum presented evidence that the couple have been married for 20 years, filed joint tax returns, and even produced an anniversary card from Michael written to her that he’d marry her all over again after 20 years. Notwithstanding these efforts, New Jersey does not recognize common-law marriage, yet this marriage license issue presents a technicality that has now been used in the adjudication of subsequent cases. Ultimately, in the end, notwithstanding the technical loophole that the parties were not legally married, David provided child support to the three children and Deborah walked out of the marriage with a less than an “ideal” deal.

One take away message from this case for everyone contemplating marriage or those who hastily got married, is to make sure to have the marriage license in hand before the wedding ceremony takes place. While this case seems to be rather outlandish and rare, the problem that arose therein can and do happen.

Bronzino Law Firm: Creative Advocate Dedicated to Representing Your Interests

The practice of law requires creativity and how best to bolster your position against the opposing party. At Bronzino Law Firm, we think outside the box and develop effective legal solutions to meet your individualized needs. Please contact us at (732) 812-3102 for an initial free consultation so we can start planning on how to effectively represent you in your divorce case or modification action.