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Family Law Meets Reality TV: “Untying the Knot” Episode 2

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As we continue our blogging about Bravo’s foray into family law, today we discuss Untying the Knot episode two.

“Most ppl don’t get divorced Bc they have different taste in music” – Vikki Zeigler, Esq.

This episode we meet Meredith Koloski and Andy Wehr, a couple of college sweethearts married for five years.  They have been separated for the last nine months and while Meredith has remained in the couple’s marital home, Andy has moved into a nearby apartment.  They live in New Jersey on the shore.  From what Vikki can gather at their initial meeting, these two grew apart and the fantasy they had in mind was not what turned out to be a reality.

Meredith and Andy were able to work out a custody arrangement for their 4-year-old son on their own.  Which is a huge hurdle to overcome.  A lot of clients I see in my practice are no so lucky.  They do, however, remain deadlocked over some items that need to be divided.

Items at Issue:

  • Tiffany lamp and heirloom vases- both the lamp and three vases were inherited down through Meredith’s side of the family.  They were then gifted to her by her father.  Meredith wants to keep the items as a family connection but Andy wants to sell them if they are in fact worth what they could be.
  • Vintage motorcycle helmets- There are four, hand-painted helmets that Andy collected and wore during the marriage.  He bought them with marital funds.  Just as would be expected, Meredith wants to sell them and Andy wants to keep them for emotional value.  ( Vikki makes a solid observation that these two are really just out to hurt the other by saying they want to sell what the other holds dear.  Definitely, something I see often in my practice as well)
  • The marital home- Meredith wants to remain in the home with their son.  The town they live in is where she grew up and wants him to grow up as well.  Husband wants to sell the home and split the proceeds as he believes that the town is a bit pretentious.
  • Andy’s motorcycle- this seems to be Andy’s most prized possession.  He purchased the bike during the marriage and made customizations.  After a scary accident that happened when Meredith was 7 months pregnant, she wants him to get rid of the bike.  Andy wants to keep it as he feels it is all he has left.

Vikki then calls in her experts to appraise all of the items and do what she normally does- she thinks about a global resolution.  This practice tactic is key to organizing and reaching a positive settlement.  It keeps all parties happy in some ways and disappointed in others.  I use the same approach in my work and find it successful.

The Mediation Verdict:

“No body wins, and nobody loses” -Vikki

  • The Vintage Motorcycle Helmets- While Andy thought they would be worth more, his emotional goggles got in the way.  They were appraised at $1500.  Vikki gave these to Andy as he is the one who uses them but awarded a credit of half their value to Wife.  She is entitled to this credit because the helmets were purchased during the marriage with marital funds.
  • The Heirloom Vases-They were appraised high at $8500, but as they were inherited, the law dictates that Meredith gets to keep them and Andy has no right to a credit. ( Note: this is also the way the law would dictate in Pennsylvania!)
  • The “Tiffany” lamp- Turns out this lamp is not an authentic piece and is worth only $500.  For the same reasons as she got to keep the vases, Meredith gets to keep this too.  It did not seem that Andy was too upset over it, either.
  • The Marital Home- After appraising the house, a local realtor thought it could sell for between $1.1 and $1.3 million in the current market.  Sale price and who wants to remain in the home are not the only factors.  Important to note is the cost of maintaining the home.  Vikki did what i have often done in my practice- she recommended that the home be sold and the equity split.  Her reason was because she knew that Meredith would not be able to financially maintain the house on her own.  This hard realization is one my clients often face.  They love the home they built and lived in as a two-income household.  Yet now, they forget that it could be out of their budget.
  • Andy’s Motorcycle- As this was purchased during the marriage with marital funds (despite Meredith’s permission to Andy to buy it) the item will remain with Andy but Meredith gets a credit for half the value.  The value was surprisingly much lower than what Andy put into it.  His “customizations” ended up being too specific.  This is something that can come up- a client may be truly attached to and love an item thinking that it is priceless.  When in reality, it is only worth half as much but double in sentimental value.

Ultimately, this party accepted Vikki’s recommendation and her application of New Jersey equitable distribution law.

Stay tuned for episode 3’s recap later this week!

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