In the last several weeks, we have been asked, both in our personal and professional capacity, something to the effect of: “If Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau were to separate, how would the situation play out in court?”. Given our curiosity of well-known personalities, our friends’ and clients’ interest is natural. We'd be willing to wager that the Trudeau family will not step into a courtroom for their family matters.
Particularly during the past few years, an increasing number of families, whether public or private figures are choosing a private dispute resolution mechanism such as mediation or arbitration to address and resolve their separations. While this might not work for everyone, there are good reasons for many to choose this route.
Court proceedings are, by design, open to the public. This ensures transparency and trust in our judicial process. However, for families navigating the complexities of separation, having personal matters aired publicly can amplify their strain and stress.
For public figures like Prime Minister Trudeau, maintaining privacy regarding sensitive personal issues is almost a necessity, given their continuous presence in the media. The desire for discretion isn’t exclusive to the famous. In communities where many people are interconnected, having family matters – even the fact of separation, to say nothing of publicly filed affidavits – become common knowledge can be challenging. It might be a concern for local professionals such as teachers, small business owners, or really anyone valuing their privacy and reputation.
Addressing Sensitive Matters with Care
There are aspects of all of our lives and relationships that we prefer to remain private. These might include financial difficulties, past decisions and/or intricate family dynamics. Mediation and arbitration provide a safe space where these matters can be discussed and dealt with without the possibility of public disclosure.
Prioritizing Emotional Well-being
Courtrooms are challenging. Emotions often run high, and the nature of our adversarial system (where one side is “against” the other) will inevitably intensify conflicts, making it feel more like a contest than a constructive dialogue. This can set the stage for protracted legal battles rather than generating agreements on sensitive issues.
In contrast, mediation fosters a more cooperative environment. It's about open communication and understanding, allowing both parties to be heard. Such an approach is invaluable, especially when children are involved, ensuring decisions are child-focused. Even the arbitration process, which is essentially competitive rather than cooperative, permits far greater opportunity for collaboration between the parties on issues that may seem apparently innocuous, such as the seating in the room. There is much to be said for being relatively physically comfortable while going through such an inherently uncomfortable and stressful process.
Streamlining the Process
Mediation and arbitration offer a more user-friendly approach compared to traditional court proceedings. Mediators and arbitrators work for the people who hire them. This means, among other things, that instead of awaiting court schedules, the parties determine their timelines. This not only speeds up the resolution process but also gives families more control.
Every person whom we have met who is going through a separation has at least one thing in common with other individuals in similar situations: the need for finality. When people arrange their affairs, and pay their hard-earned money to lawyers to help them arrange them, they expect that it the final result will be the end of the dispute.
It is well-understood that court orders not only provide finality, but also authority, including well-understood enforcement mechanisms; however, potential litigants should understand that arbitration awards can also be enforced, although it is important to note that this involves an extra step, namely, applying to the Superior Court of Justice for enforcement.
While public figures like the Trudeaus capture the collective imagination, it's crucial to recognize the universal challenges faced during family transitions. Beyond the headlines lie real emotions, decisions, and adjustments.
The trend in family law indicates a rising preference for mediation and arbitration. When we consider the Trudeaus' probable choice for privacy, it seems evident that they, like many others, see the merit in addressing personal matters away from the public eye.
It's quite plausible that the Trudeaus, given their high-profile status, will very likely opt to avoid the courtroom for their family affairs. As the advantages of private resolution become increasingly well-understood, it's a choice that many individuals seem inclined to make.