Let Vikki Ziegler tell it… she’s a hustler. Nothing illegal obviously, just an entrepreneur and businesswoman who has taken her foundation in the legal field and taken it to the next level. A practicing divorce attorney in 3 states, Ziegler is also a professor at Fordham University in NYC, an author and the owner of two social networking websites. Her experience as a divorce lawyer for athletes and entertainers has also led to several opportunities as a consultant and as a featured guest on television. That led to her appearance in the ESPN, 30 for 30 film, Broke. Shortly after the film’s premiere, we got the pleasure of meeting with Vikki Ziegler to discuss her various business ventures, her experiences and so much more, which we’ve featured in our complete interview below. In short, it’s a great read, if I can say so myself.
Parlé Magazine: Nice meeting you. So just to clarify you’re a woman of many hats, but you’re a divorce attorney, first and foremost correct?
Vikki Ziegler: I’m a divorce lawyer by day, I represent athletes, entertainers and anyone who needs a divorce.
Parlé: What’s the first thing you said you wanted to be as a child and how did that evolve into what you do now?
Ziegler: I wanted to be a divorce attorney as soon as my parents got divorced at 12. Its been my plight to help children go through the horrible roller coaster of divorce and I made it my passion. Its pretty much what I’ve done for my entire career.
Parlé: Where did you study law?
Ziegler: I went to the University of Rhode Island for undergrad and then it was Bridgeport Law in Connecticut and then it turned to Quinnipiac Law.
Parlé: Where are you originally from?
Ziegler: My parents are from South Africa, so I am a Johannesburg native. My parents immigrated to this country. I grew up in New York for a little while then went to Jersey, then came back to New York. I practice law in New York, New Jersey and D.C.
Parlé: You passed the bar in all 3 regions?
Ziegler: Yeah. I’m a hustler!
Parlé: Has law been what you expected it to be when you got into it?
Ziegler: Absolutely not. I thought I was going to help children, I really haven’t been able to help children as much as I wanted to. I’m helping try to save their (divorcees) money and their assets and along the way try to help people deal with the horrible divorce process. I realize that the cliché, ‘more money, more problems,’ i’s true! And quite frankly, really sad. You know when you really care about people in your lives, divorce is like kind’ve like avoiding a train wreck, not really fixing it. It’s not really what I thought I’d be doing and not exactly what I see myself doing in another 5 years.
Parlé: Divorce rates right now are incredibly high, obviously great for business, but what do you think the problem is in America right now?
Ziegler: First time divorce rates are at 50%, second time is 63% and third time rates are at 74%, so what’s going on right? People aren’t learning from their mistakes, their rebounding, they’re not really changing, they think about the wedding, that day, the honeymoon, but they don’t realize that marriage is forever. And they’re not getting educated about money, they’re not talking about where they want to live, how many kids. Many people aren’t premarital planning and a lot of times they’re going into it because they feel like they’re supposed to be married and I don’t believe in that. And I think people in a bad economy fight about money. They don’t plan for it, they don’t plan about their expenses, their investment strategies and that takes a toll on the marriage. I get the calls like, ‘he cheated,’ well that is a symptom, it’s not a cause, he’s cheating for a reason. So those are some of the reasons why I think marriages fail. And they don’t have me talking to them before they get married.
Parlé: You wrote a book for those that don’t have an opportunity to speak with someone like you. How’d you decide you wanted to write this book, The Premarital Planner?
Ziegler: For me, thirteen years of practicing law, they’re not planning, they’re not using prenumptial agreements, they’re not talking about important things. They live together but not even talking about what happens if they break up. For me, you gotta talk about these things. If you both brought a couch, whose couch is it? You can’t split it in half with a saw. I created the book because I saw so much negativity and I saw so many people failing in their marriages, I thought, I know what’s going wrong. Let me write about it, let me tell people, this is what you need to do. That’s kind of why I wrote this book in particular and it’s The Premarital Planner, that’s really what it is. Teaching people how to stay happily married from a divorce attorney’s perspective.
Parlé: How’d you go about getting your debut book published?
Ziegler: I hustled and I hustled and then someone saw a vision. They believed in me and they saw that there was a market. And what divorce attorney wants to put themselves out of business? Me! That’s how I roll, I’m kind of crazy like that.
No, they loved it. I got a three book deal and I’m working on my next book, The All-Star Divorce, how to get your experts and your team together when you’re getting a divorce. And I have a chick-lit movie/book called Love, Lies and Litigation.
Parlé: Since you’re writing relationship books, I have to ask, are you in a relationship.
Ziegler: I got married 3 months ago, so I better know what I’m talking about. If I’m getting divorced I’d be a BIG sucker. I talk the talk and I walk the walk. We did all the steps in the book, we did all the planning. So to me it’s real important. We went through all the worksheets. I wanted to get financially naked and that’s what he did and that’s what I did. And you talk about what you want to share and what you don’t. It’s not romantic, but its necessary.
Parlé: Pre-marital agreements, pre-nuptual agreements, are you an advocate?
Ziegler: Huge advocate, when it’s necessary. Any athlete that comes to me and asks about a pre-nup, the answer is always yes. Anyone that has any type of asset that they want to keep separate or protect, the answer is always yes. Whether its real estate or business, even potential inheritance, even though its not generally subject to distribution, it can be if its co-mingled and put into a joint name. You definitely want to think about it if there’s an asset you own and you worked hard for before your marriage.
Parlé: You’re also an educator, teaching marital law at Fordham, correct?
Ziegler: Yes, I teach drafting pre-nuptual agreements and same sex marriage, which is such a hot topic.
Parlé: That’s a pretty new topic…
Ziegler: Yes, very new. Been teaching that for 3 years now. The law is evolving and the students are so into it, there’s like a wait list for every class because the students are so into the topic.
Parlé: At this point, gay marriage is a new topic but is the law overall changing that much?
Ziegler: Yeah, I was just reading about the Supreme Court striking down the Defense of Marriage Act and that’s a big deal. Twenty-three to twenty-seven states have altered their constitution to say that gay couples can marry. Now, the Supreme Court is striking down the Defense of Marriage Act that can alter the entire landscape of every state. The Defense of Marriage Act defends that marriage is between a man and a woman, if the Supreme Court is striking that down does that mean there’s room for same-sex couples to get married in every state? Huge! This is constitutional law, this is exciting stuff. And we don’t know what’s going to happen.