My brothers and I raced our Melges 24 for about five years on the Chesapeake, and took it on the road for several Figawi (Hyannis- Nantucket during May) races as well. Despite the name "sport boat", they are purpose built race boats. They have a well-organized one-design fleet, and it is pretty darn cool to be able to sail 15-20 knots downwind in a 24 footer.
But, and I am tring to think of a way to say this as emphatically as possible, THE MELGES 24 IS NOT A FAMILY-FRIENDLY BOAT!!!!!!!! Unless your family likes holding on for dear life, getting their brains beat out on the upwind legs in heavy air, sometimes broaching uncontrollably in heavy air downwind legs, not being able to relieve themselves (even overboard), and generally being wet and miserable on all but the fairest days. Do you get the idea?
I'm not sure I could recommend any of the sport boats as "family-friendly". If your family only includes a spouse, then you have some wiggle room. But if you are talking about young kids too, then sport boats are not the way to go.
In my case, we went from one 24 sprit boat to another: The Melges 24 to the Dana 24. I would choose the Dana any day over the Melges, especially if family sailing is in the cards. You can get one within your stated budget, and your wife will be much happier with sailing in general because she will be COMFORTABLE. Don't underestimate the importance of this if you want this sailing thing to work out.