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By: Claire McDowell

The following is not intended as legal advice, but rather as an introductory overview on a legal subject. For legal advice regarding your own separation, we recommend consulting with an Ontario family law lawyer. Please contact us to schedule a consultation with Gelman & Associates today.

The media has been publishing story after story about the “dirty” divorce and custody battle between the Disney Channel Jonas Brother, Joe Jonas, and the Queen in the North, Sophie Turner. However, scintillating this tabloid tale is, it begs the question, what are the legal implications or the situation that the couple have found themselves in? Why have they made such rash decisions only to go back and opt for mediation?

Before getting too deep into this topic, it is important to note that Joe and Sophie’s divorce proceedings are taking place in the United States, where the Family Law system is vastly different than in Canada, let alone Ontario. As such, it should be noted that this blog post is being drafted with the Family Law Rules in Canada in mind so as to inform readers of legal information that applies in Canada, more specifically Ontario.

The current information that the media has provided with respect to Joe and Sophie’s divorce is that Joe was the one who initially made the decision to file for divorce. It should be noted that, contrary to what we often see portrayed in the media, filing for divorce or, in the case of Ontario Family Law Courts, bringing an Application with respect to family law issues, is often not a huge surprise to the opposing party. Rather than being shocked by this decision, this is often the result of a longer conversation between parties and their counsel in an effort to settle the foregoing issues outside of Court, and is the inevitable result when parties are unable to come to an agreement and require judicial assistance to determine those issues on a final basis.

There are many reasons why Joe Jonas may have filed for divorce, as indicated above, and can also include a tactic to force the opposing party to come to the negotiating table. There is always the possibility that Joe wanted to negotiate the terms of an agreement between himself and Sophie, but she was unwilling to cooperate, and he felt that he had no choice but to file in order to move this matter forward. Though it is interesting and entertaining to speculate with respect to the lives and relationships of the rich and famous, the reality is that no one will truly understand what happened between the parties other than those who are directly involved. The speculation made to this point on the parties’ relationship are only possibilities, and are certainly not confirmed in any way, shape, or form.

Since filing for divorce, it has come to light that Joe Jonas has made the decision to withdraw his Application for divorce and opt to attend mediation. There may be many reasons for this, though a few seem more likely than others. First, as mentioned earlier, if filing for divorce was simply a tactic to force Sophie Turner to consent to mediate and negotiate and Agreement, once she had done so, Joe may have decided that his divorce Application was not necessary and that the parties would be able to negotiate successfully.

There is also the possibility that Joe, knowing that court proceedings ultimately become public record, and that the parties are celebrities with significant assets and very little privacy even without an ongoing Court case, opted to attend mediation at the request of Sophie Turner in an effort to minimize the public’s knowledge of and involvement in their lives, and the lives of their children. Going through a family court case can be hard on any family, and that is only exacerbated by the involvement of paparazzi and paired with an instinct the parties would have to protect their young children.

With respect to the children, there is another complication in that the parties are not from the same geographic area. Based on information provided online with respect to these parties, Sophie Turner is from the UK and would normally reside in London, England, whereas Joe Jonas is from the United States. The parties recently sold their $15 million mansion in Miami, Florida, where they had been residing with their children prior to their separation. However, the Court proceedings are taking place in Manhattan, New York. As such, the ability of the parties to relocate with their children would be extremely limited until such a time that the issues are settled or a Court makes an Order with respect to the children’s habitual and primary residence moving forward. Sophie has claimed that the children’s “forever home” is England, while Joe continues to submit that the children should reside in the US. The parties have agreed that the children will remain in New York until such a time that this issue is settled by the Court or by agreement between the parties.

Here’s hoping that the parties will be able to negotiate an Agreement on all issues and avoid a lengthy, and very public, trial. However, this situation begs the question; did Joe Jonas make the right decision in withdrawing his Application for divorce in favour of mediating with Sophie Turner? While mediation can be a very effective tool that can save parties significant time and resources, parties want to be careful about withdrawing their Court Applications too quickly. Should the parties withdraw on the basis that they are going to mediate and negotiate and agreement between them, and then it turns out that they are unable to do so on some or all of the outstanding issue, they will be forced to prepare a new Application for the Court. This can be a time-consuming and stressful process that would have been unnecessary had the parties maintained their Court file while attending mediation. As such, parties should consider adjourning upcoming Court dates and/or consenting to late filing of materials so as to put their Court matters on hold instead of fully withdrawing them until such a time that they have confirmed that they will be able to negotiate and agreement and that they have finalized said agreement.

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