Michael and Debra Mandelbaum lived as husband and wife for about 20 years. They had a Jewish wedding ceremony. They had three children, filed tax returns jointly, purchased houses and shared anniversary cards, court records show.
Now, Mr. Mandelbaum has taken an unusual position in divorce proceedings brought by his wife. He said in New Jersey Superior Court documents that, according to the letter of the law, they were never technically married.
New Jersey statutes require couples to obtain a marriage license before their ceremony. But the Mandelbaumsâ Dec. 5, 1993, ceremony, in the office of a rabbi with Ms. Mandelbaum wearing a gown from Kleinfeld Bridal, came 16 days before their license was granted, according to court filings.
âThe parties were never fully married and so the court must dismiss her [divorce] complaint,â Mr. Mandelbaumâs lawyers said in the filings.
Mr. Mandelbaum, 47, handles the legal affairs of his family, who hold a stake in the Minnesota Vikings and part-ownership of Vornado Realty Trust VNO -0.53%, one of the largest owners of retail and office space in the U.S., said Alan Marcus, Mr. Mandelbaumâs spokesman.
Mr. Marcus said âMr. Mandelbaum acknowledgesâ his relationship with Ms. Mandelbaum âand is committed to resolving the dispute in a fair and appropriate manner consistent with law and in the best interests of his children.â
Ms. Mandelbaum and her lawyers didnât return messages for comment.
In 2012, Mr. Mandelbaumâs income was more than $6.6 million, according to Internal Revenue Service filings in the court documents.
Ms. Mandelbaum, 52, said in court filings that Mr. Mandelbaumâs legal position is a way to âescape having to pay me an equitable distribution which could total hundreds of millions of dollars.â
Kevin B. Kelly, a professor of law at Seton Hall University who isnât affiliated with the case, said Mr. Mandelbaumâs tactic has been used with some success.
But while the law was clear on what constitutes a marriage, he said, the court will also take into account the âgood faith of the parties.â
âA lot of it comes down to common sense,â said Mr. Kelly. âThe real key in those cases is the motivation.â
The partiesâ next court date is in early October.
Ms. Mandelbaumâs June 2014 filing is filled with documents that she said are examples of the coupleâs married life.
Ms. Mandelbaum said she met Mr. Mandelbaum, then a Harvard law student, in 1987 on a flight to New Jersey. At his request, she converted to Judaism in 1992 and left her career as a teacher so they could marry.
She said she didnât know about his familyâs fortuneâMr. Mandelbaumâs father was included on the Forbes list of the richest 400 Americansâuntil around their wedding.
After the ceremony, âwe purchased real estate jointly, shared joint bank accounts and credit cards, filed joint tax returns, and identified ourselves as husband and wife on countless other legal, business and social documents,â Ms. Mandelbaum said in the filing.
Ms. Mandelbaumâs lawyers submitted greeting cards, wedding invitation responses, property deeds, and IRS filings.
On one wedding anniversary card, Mr. Mandelbaum wrote, âAfter 20 years Iâd marry you all over again.â
He gave her a Motherâs Day card that included the pre-written message, âFor My Wife,â court records show.
Another exhibit, Ms. Mandelbaum said, is Mr. Mandelbaumâs grandparents writing they would be âhappy to attendâ and were âlooking forward toâ the coupleâs wedding ceremony, which was ultimately delayed until December.
Mr. Mandelbaum, in court filings, said Ms. Mandelbaum was aware of the issue that their ceremony predated their license and that she refused to fix it. Ms. Mandelbaum denies that.
How We Can Help
If you, a friend or a family member find themselves in a situation such as this, please call the Law Office of Scott A. Ferris, P.A. at 305 670-3330 right away. Scott A. Ferris, Esq. is a licensed family law attorney who has been practicing law since 1987. He is available whenever you need him to pursue your rights. Please learn about our firm at www.FerrisLawFirm.com.
Republished by the Law Office of Scott A. Ferris, P.A.