Aquilini divorce finalized in British Columbia family court

While the magnitude of the divorce between Canucks co-owner Francesco Aquilini and his wife Tali'ah is something that most people won't relate to, some of the broader issues are all too common for British Columbian families going through divorce proceedings. As with many battles, the Aquilini divorce was fraught with questions and battles over asset division.

According to the Vancouver Sun, the main assets in question during the divorce centered around a multibillion-dollar family trust. The patriarch of the Aquilini family, Francesco's father Luigi, set up the trust to protect his and his family's assets. The trust is quite complex, and legal issues involved determining if Francesco had legal ownership of any of the money or whether it was under his father's name. This would have an impact on the amount of money his ex-wife may have received in the divorce settlement.

Allegations of adultery

In addition to the details involving the family trust, Francesco's ex-wife accused him of adultery, charging that she should be eligible for a greater portion of the shared assets due to his role in ending the marriage. Incidentally, according to an article in CTV News, Canadian law stipulates that adultery is only relevant if a couple has been separated less than a year prior to the divorce. This was not the case for the Aquilinis, who had been separated for 12 months at the time of the hearing.

The confidential settlement

With outlets like The Vancouver Sun speculating that the divorce would "spill into" the province's highest court and give the public a glimpse into "what happens when high-net-worth couples can't settle their personal differences privately" and many others anticipating an extensive and heated court battle, the couple decided to formalize the divorce instead. They arrived at a largely confidential settlement early on in the second week of September, and a judge formally granted the divorce September 11.

In a statement released via a popular social media outlet September 9, Francesco suggested that the settlement was primarily motivated by weighing the effect that drawn-out divorce proceedings would have had on the children. "This settlement means we will be able to keep our personal lives private and, most importantly, avoid the negative impact of a trial on the children we both love," he said. Outside the Vancouver courthouse on September 11, his ex-wife relayed similar sentiments, emphasizing that her "priority through this whole process" has been her children's "protection and care."

British Columbia divorce settlement statistics

While most divorces in British Columbia are uncontested, the Aquilini divorce was a high-profile example of a contested divorce. Only 23 percent of all divorces in British Columbia were contested, representing the highest rate of contested divorce among all the Canadian provinces, according to Statistics Canada. The Aquilini divorce had been ongoing for more than a year. According to statistics, the median length for contested divorces is 490 days, making the high-profile case rather typical in its duration.

The role of a family lawyer in a contested divorce

This case brings to light the unique role a family lawyer can play for both sides in a contested divorce case. For instance, family lawyers for Francesco argued that the family trust was not owned by him but instead by his father and that it did not count in the overall estimation of his wealth. Likewise, they did the same for his companies, advising Francesco not to speak with the media about the structure of his share in the Canucks or other investments.

On the other hand, family lawyers for his ex-wife argued that the companies, trusts and other complex financial instruments were just fancy ways of wrapping up Francesco's wealth and that they should also be subject to asset division in the divorce.

For British Columbian couples broaching the subject of divorce, an insightful family lawyer could mean the difference between a difficult and contentious process and a fair and efficient separation. The lawyer may also offer mediation services that may help both spouses arrive at an equitable arrangement regarding emotionally heavy issues such as child custody or the division of sentimental objects.