April 13, 2010
Clear Example of a Judge "Splitting the Baby" -- Settlement of Photo Albums in Which Wife Takes Every Fourth Picture Out of Every Album
Posted by Christine Hurt

Background:  (1) I'm a scrapbooker.  I say that proudly and with knowledge that I have exceptional scrapbooking talent.  (2) Every so often, someone in the blawgosphere posts on the misuse of the phrase "splitting the baby."  The wisdom of King Solomon's ruling that two contending women would receive half of the disputed baby's body, necessitating in killing the baby, is that the true mother would reveal herself by demanding that the baby stay intact and go with the non-mother.  So first of all, Solomon never split a baby.  Secondly, a ruling that "splits the baby" is an order that pleases neither party and extracts all of the value out of whatever is in dispute.  "Splitting the baby" is most definitely not splitting the difference.

So, here is my worst-case (non-child) splitting-the-baby case.  According to the NYLJ, a couple in New York, who otherwise seem fairly amicable, couldn't agree on how to split the family photo albums (with approximately 7000 photos).  First, the photos were attempted to be scanned, but the quality was not comparable.  The husband asserts that he was the family historian, meticulously archiving the photos and creating the photo albums, and that the wife is wanting them for spite.  So, the judge decrees that the wife is entitled to 25% of the photos given her minimal participation but honest interest in photos of her children.  The kicker is the method:

"The method of selection shall be in a manner agreed to by the parties or the selection process shall be as follows: starting with the first album, the Wife shall, counting from the first page thereof, be entitled to receive every fourth original photograph in that album," the judge wrote, adding that she should continue in that matter until reaching the end of the final album. The judge ordered the couple to complete the process by June 3 or show up on June 24 "for direction to an appropriate location in the courthouse to conduct the selection process."
This judge seems very wise indeed. A true family photo archivist, like myself, would cringe at the idea of every fourth picture being taken out of albums that were intentionally created according to topic, event, timeline, etc. The true "owner" of these pictures would rather see them transferred intact than be mutiliated in such way. I hope that just as in the biblical tale, this judge never has to follow through with his order!

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