As a practicing attorney of matrimonial law and civil litigation, Vikki Ziegler is helping couples peacefully part ways in both her practice and on the hit Bravo show, Untying the Knot. We spoke exclusively with Vikki about divorce, her life as a new mommy to baby Sofia, and why she unapologetically calls herself a Mack truck.
Let’s talk about divorce. I read that New Year’s and Valentine’s Day are the two most popular times for people to file for divorce.
The biggest filings for divorce are in January. People want to go through the holidays; they want to enjoy their families. They want to muster the courage to say, “New Year, new man, new woman. Let’s do it!” It takes a lot of nerve to file for divorce so that’s what they do. They get all the gifts for the kids, and then they wait until after the holidays and then they say; “Now it’s about me.”
I’ve been practicing for 16 ½ years. I got into it because my parents went through a terrible divorce. There was a custody battle; I was an only child at the time. I went through the process and vowed that I’m going to help children go through it, and that’s what I’m doing.
How did Untying the Knot come to be?
Well, about ten years ago I met someone at a party and he said I should be a talking head, and I said, “No thank you.” I gave him my card and the next day Britney Spears shaved her head and they needed a custody expert, so I went on Bill O’Reilly. I fell in love with the concept of being able to speak your mind and talk about legal issues on TV. I had a couple of ideas for a TV show, and people came calling. I was on the Kim Kardashian show once; they had a clip of me talking about her divorce. We got a lot of calls; a production company came to me, and Bravo picked us up!
How has making the show been so far?
It’s an amazing process because I’m mediating couples for hours and hours and hours and viewers are only seeing 44 minutes of one show. For me, I think it’s fantastic because I’m educating people, young people, and older people, everyone about divorce. I’m trying to help people understand all aspects of family law so it’s engaging. It’s not just another reality show; it’s not a train wreck. That was not what I was interested in. And it’s unscripted, too.
So in Season 2 of Untying the Knot, you announced your pregnancy.
Yes, I was pregnant and growing by leaps and bounds the entire season. The baby flew with me everywhere because it’s not only in New York and New Jersey that I mediate, but we were in Atlanta, California. It was crazy; I was all over the country with her. I have my own law firm, so obviously I’m practicing law, I’m filming and then coming back and doing a bunch of other things. It’s been a whirlwind.
Is it hard to get it all done, especially with your first baby?
I think when someone gets that panacea of being able to manage life perfectly; I’m dying to know. I think that everyone does what they think is right; you do what you can to maintain a happy marriage, you want your child to grow and be healthy and learn. You also want to make money. It’s a big juggling act; you want to look good because it’s hard. I was huge on-air and now you have a baby and you have to get back on track. I don’t think there’s a rulebook out there that tells you how to do it, but you just go with it and hopefully it all works out.
I’m also a huge proponent of being grateful. Instead of being overwhelmed, (and because of lack of sleep, it’s hard to think clearly), I just wake up every morning and say, “God is great. I’m so lucky and grateful for the family that I have and everything that I do.” It gives me the impetus to keep moving. I also do a lot of charity work and that gives me perspective. Really, you just do what you can do in a day and you do your best, and then there’s always tomorrow.
I have to say, your baby Sofia is amazing. Throughout the shoot and now during the interview, she hasn’t made one peep.
She’s honestly the biggest miracle and blessing. It wasn’t so easy to get her here; we had a really tough time. You have to believe in life that if timing is right now, it’s going to be. We are so grateful; even when she’s crying and screaming (which is so infrequent), I’m so happy that she’s here. People don’t talk about the struggles of trying to get pregnant and unfortunately having a pregnancy that doesn’t go to full-term and then having a baby, and IVF and the things that we had to go through. I love to talk about it because there’s so many people out there that we’re helping now to know that there are so many options out there. She was a labor of love, literally.
It’s a refreshing perspective because not many people want to admit their struggles.
I have a lot of friends in the industry and I feel like I want to be different. I want to be real and come with a fresh perspective. It’s nice to be on TV and it’s nice to be noticed and there are great perks, but we’re all people. We’re human and we have our insecurities and I’m all about working through them. For me, I have a day job, I have a night job. TV doesn’t define me; I love it and I want it to be a second career because I think I can do really good things in the business but it’s not going to make me who I am.
Going into your own marriage, was it difficult because you have seen all the faces of divorce?
It’s a great question. The answer for me is that I’ve learned how to be in a happy marriage. I wrote a book called The Premarital Planner: Your Complete Legal Guide to a Perfect Marriage and for me, it was daunting and a little nerve-wracking to get married. However, when you know the person is right and you both want to work on it, I believe I have the tools to make a marriage work. I don’t know, he might feel differently, but I certainly felt like we came together and we were going to make it work no matter what. I learned from everyone’s mistakes instead of perpetuating them. That’s the beauty of what I do and that’s how my perspective is a little different from everybody else.
How can people make their divorce easier and what would you recommend to someone who is contemplating divorce?
I’ll start with the second one first. I think everyone needs to take an inventory and look in the mirror and figure out if it’s about you or the other person. Who’s doing what? And if your marriage can be saved when you come to me, I always say go to therapy or a life coach and give it 60, 90, 120 days. But if you’re really thinking about divorce, you need to consult with an attorney and you really need to work on yourself. One hour with a divorce attorney can make it or break it. They can either scare you into reality, like “Oh my God, I don’t want this,” or you might realize that this is the right thing. I tell people, “I don’t push divorces. I’m just here to solve your problems.” You need a good advocate to find out what’s gone wrong and that’s the best advice for someone who might be thinking about divorce if they’re not really sure.
The first thing they can do is shelve their emotions and make it a business deal. Even though it’s really hard to do that, I think it’s important to focus on what’s at stake and if it’s just financial, it should be a business deal. I think getting experts along the way, confiding in friends who have been through it, can help guide them. People should also take care of themselves, get massages, read a book, try to take a vacation, and keep their mind healthy. Everyone who is going through a divorce is usually a deer in headlights and you don’t really know how to handle things. And you have to remember, who cares what everyone thinks? I tell people what other people think is none of your business. Because everyone has an opinion:” Why are you getting divorced?” “Oh, you should have left him sooner.” You don’t need that pressure. Make peace with the divorce and the process will go a little easier.
So what are some of your plans for the future?
I have a lot of plans! I have another book, called Love, Lies and Litigation, and I’m hoping it becomes a movie. I have a hair perfume coming out that also doubles as a body oil. For me, it’s all about making people feel good after they get divorced, and it’s also for people like me who don’t like to blow their hair out every day. And then there’s my app, Divorce Dating is something near and dear to my heart because I created it for people affected by divorce and who want to date and be confident that they can find love again. And there are other things in the works, hopefully more TV and my law firm. We’re growing and expanding and helping people every day, which has always been one of my dreams. I do these empowerment seminars, and women and men come. I say that I’m a Mack truck. I don’t know how else to describe it. You can’t stop me; I’m coming for whatever I want, and I’m not competing with anyone. I love everyone—you’re prettier, smarter, more successful…that’s great. I’m just in my lane doing my thing. I love to teach people and I think that I have something to give back. Love me or hate me, this is my life. I’m going to live it and I feel that people are getting it and figuring out how to get on the train.
You bring a friendly face to divorce.
I’m trying to destigmatize it. People need to build a strong marital foundation before they get married. I feel that some people get married for the wrong reasons, and that’s part of it. When a storm hits when you’re married, don’t give up. You gotta work at it. You work during the day to get a paycheck; you work on your marriage to be happy. We’re constantly working at it, all the time.
Is it ever too late to protect your assets in a marriage if you don’t have a pre-nup?
Absolutely, a post-nup. A post-nup is kind of the same concept as a pre-nup but it happens after you’re married. You want to make sure that you’re protecting your assets and you don’t want a horrible divorce. I do a lot of post-nups, more than I’ve ever done in my career. People are getting smarter. There’s also divorce insurance which I’ve been hearing about and it’s a very interesting concept. In the event of a divorce, you use your insurance and you can use it for legal fees or use it to start over again. Divorce is a fact of life; relationships go south and people break up. That’s why you have to work on every aspect of your life. It’s exhausting, but I feel like if you want a happy life, a full life, that’s the only way.