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It walks like a marriage, talks like a marriage, but is it legit?

A couple with Minnesota ties -- purple and gold ties -- is in an unusual situation. Michael Mandelbaum, whose family owns a piece of the Minnesota Vikings football team, and his wife Debra are divorcing. Sort of. They are in New Jersey, not Minnesota, but we will explain the differences between the laws of the two states as we go along.

The couple's wedding took place in 1993. They have three children. They lived together until 2013, when Ms. Mandelbaum accused her husband of pushing her during an argument. She lost her balance and fell down the stairs. He told police she had slipped and fallen; the charges should be dropped when he has completed a pretrial intervention program. As a result of the incident, though, Ms. Mandelbaum obtained a temporary restraining order and moved forward with a divorce.

Mr. Mandelbaum is disputing the divorce. His argument? The couple cannot divorce because they were never legally married.

A couple cannot get married in New Jersey, where the Mandelbaums live, without a license. The state has a three-day waiting period (72 hours) between the time the application is filed and the license is granted. Once granted, the license is valid for 30 days.

Minnesota also requires a marriage license. There is a five-day waiting period, and the license is valid for six months.

According to Mr. Mandelbaum, the ceremony may have been conducted by a rabbi in official surroundings, and Ms. Mandelbaum may have been wearing a bridal gown, but all of this happened a full 16 days before the license was valid. No license, no marriage.

And no marriage, no property division obligation. So, the battle lines have been drawn.

We'll continue this in our next post.

Source: Wall Street Journal, "Son of Minnesota Vikings Part-Owner Says He Wasn't Legally Married to His Wife," Yoni Bashan and Heather Haddon, Sept. 18, 2014 

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