It’s been all over the news: Canadian Prime Minster Justin Trudeau and wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau have decided to separate. The high-profile couple announced their decision in identical Instagram posts, stating that after “many meaningful and difficult conversations”, they had decided to split after 18 years of marriage. Unlike in the U.S., in Canada there is no custom that the wife of the Prime Minister is designated to be the “First Lady”, so in light of this separation Sophie will simply stop attending official events at Justin’s side.
With this announcement, Justin becomes only the second Prime Minister in Canada to separate from a spouse while serving in office – the first one being his own father, the late Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who split from his wife Margaret in 1977 and divorced a few years later.
So while it’s rare from a political perspective, what’s interesting about this development is how carefully curated and well-planned it all seems to be, from the couple’s personal viewpoint.
According to the PM’s office, Justin and Sophie had already signed a “legal separation agreement”. This means their decision to formally part ways must have already been in the works for some time. Those legal agreements – when done right – typically require considered forethought, the advice of independent lawyers, and some negotiation. They also serve to take a good deal of acrimony out of what can be a fraught and emotionally-charged situation.
The other telltale sign is that according to one news report the emphasis is on “separation” – the Prime Minister and Sophie are apparently not considering a divorce at this time. Instead, they plan to live apart while co-parenting their three children.
Again, this suggests that there has been a good deal of prior discussion and agreement between the couple (and their lawyers) about what the separation is going to mean on a day-to-day basis. It also shows that their focus is on the children, and on the process of settling out their affairs in the least impactful and harmful manner to them. It’s not honed on rushing to the finish-line of a formal divorce at this point.
Indeed, their separation announcement clearly states they are committed to continue “raising their kids in a safe, loving and collaborative environment,” and are focused on remaining “a constant presence in their children’s lives.”
Evidently, those plans have already been set in motion: It’s reported that Sophie has already moved out into a private residence very close to Rideau Hall where Justin and the children will continue to live. She will still spend considerable time there, as part of their co-parenting arrangement. And they still intend to be seen together as a whole family often, for example on family vacations.
Although no one likes to see a marriage end, it is heartening to see a couple – especially a high-profile one like Justin and Sophie – doing it the right way. It serves as a good model for the rest of us.