Canadian businessman Francesco Aquilini and his estranged wife Tali’ah Aquilini are set to begin their high-profile divorce trial on September 9, 2013. As each spouse filed for divorce and they have been separated since January 2011, the formal dissolution is a simple formality – but the couple remains deeply divided on the custody of their children and the division of their assets. Since the couple was married in 1994, they have four children together, while Mr. Aquilini has another child from a previous marriage. The four teenage children currently reside with Tali’ah in the couple’s matrimonial home, and although there is no court order for spousal or child support, Francesco deposits money into a joint bank account every month to cover living costs for his family.
Tali’ah alleged adultery as ground for divorce, asking the court to force Francesco to answer questions during the pre-trial discovery. Though the allegations of adultery and cruelty can be used to obtain a divorce before the one-year separation is up, they are not considered when it comes to custody or division of assets. A judge ruled that as the couple has been separated over a year, the details of any alleged infidelity are unnecessary. Earlier this year, a judge also dismissed a series of pre-trial motions filed by Tali’ah including continued access of assets, benefits and privileges to the Aquilini Investment Group offerings, but Francesco’s lawyers argued that the assets are corporate not personal and that she lost access to them once the marriage ended. Tali’ah was also denied an order preventing her husband from disposing assets, but any changes to those assets before the trial must be reported. The judge also denied her bid to sell their expensive wine collection worth over $800,000 in order to pay for her legal fees. The wine collection is only one of the many assets involved in the case, but as the collection is Francesco’s personal hobby, it has been determined that his wife, who doesn’t drink, has no claim to it.
The other assets involved in the case include vacation properties and vast ownership shares in the Aquilini Investment Group. The Aquilini family, which includes Francesco, two of his brothers and his parents, own the investment holding company that controls a network of corporations and business interests. The Aquilini Investment Group’s biggest investments include Aquilini Development and Construction, a condo-building agency, Golden Eagle Group that controls agricultural land including a golf course and several farms east of Vancouver, British Columbia’s Pizza Hut restaurants and especially in public interest, the NHL Canucks Franchise and Rogers Arena. As the company is a private corporation, it is not required to disclose its financial records, and any financial documents, sensitive commercial information and specifics about their children will be considered confidential and off-limits to the media and public. Francesco’s representation is expected to argue that much of the disputed assets are covered by a pre-existing marriage agreement, but it is likely to be disputed at trial today. Francesco set up a twitter account earlier this week, tweeting for the first time; “While I can personally withstand the impact of media coverage, it is simply not fair to have my children exposed to the effects of sensitive family matters being aired this way.”