Resources & Insights

BARRISTON BRIEFS: Separating? Court isn’t the only option.

In the new series, Barriston Briefs, Tim Gronfors talks about alternative dispute resolution, 

They met through work. He was an up-and-coming entrepreneur and she an aspiring novelist. Eventually they married and raised four children together. They supported each other. She drove the car across the country to their new beginnings while he drafted the plan for a new business venture that would provide for the family for years to come. From the outside, things looked perfect; they were a modern-day ‘Jetsons’ family. Behind closed doors, it was a different story. They had started to grow apart and soon the marriage would fail.  

Sound like someone you know?  It probably does. These facts are far from exceptional with around 38% of marriages in Canada ending in divorce. You’re not alone if you think you can relate to this couple.

But this is likely where your sense of familiarity with this couple ends.  The next part of their story – the divorce and settlement part – is anything but ordinary.

That’s because this couple is the richest couple in the world: Jeff and Mackenzie Bezos. And that business plan drafted in the passenger seat of the Bezos family vehicle? It was for the now-conglomerate, Amazon. It was on January 9th, 2019 that the Bezos’ announced the end of their 25-year marriage. On April 4th – with their divorce swiftly, privately, and amicably concluded – both Jeff and Mackenzie tweeted sentiments of gratefulness for each other, ongoing admiration despite the marriage ending, and confirmation of the approximately $35,000,000,000.00 that Mackenzie will retain in Amazon shares as part of their divorce settlement. Yes, those are billions and yes, I did suggest that the settlement was quick and painless. So, you’re excused if you’ve now determined that this couple fits better in an episode of The Twilight Zone than The Jetsons. 

The reality is that the ultra-rich are not like you and I. They may not all tweet sweet-nothings to each other like the Bezos’, but they do seem to find ways to avoid dueling it out in court, more often than your standard Joe.  But why is that? One simple reason may be access to information. Perhaps they, unlike others, are more likely to receive advice on the adversarial nature of court while being educated on alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. This would include mediation, arbitration, and collaborative law, all of which provide the opportunity for a less invasive and expensive battle. The ultra-rich may not be like you and I, but when it comes to navigating a separation, everyone should be aware of their options outside of court.

Tim Gronfors