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UPDATED: Aquilinis reach truce, divorce trial off

It took less time in court Sept. 9 than a minor penalty in a hockey rink, but one of the players wasn't even there.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Nathan Smith heard from lawyers for Francesco Aquilini and estranged wife Taliah Aquilini during a 95-second hearing that a settlement had been reached, meaning their sensational divorce trial would be cancelled formally at a Sept. 11 hearing.

"It is subject to further paperwork and documentation," said Paul Daltrop, lawyer for Taliah Aquilini. She was in courtroom 35 and flashed a relieved smile at her mother, diagonally behind her in the first row of the public gallery. Francesco Aquilini, the eldest son of the billionaire family that owns the Vancouver Canucks and Rogers Arena, was notably absent.

"He doesn't need to be here, it's strictly administrative," Francesco Aquilini's lawyer, Karen Shirley-Patterson, said outside the law courts. She said he was also likely to skip the next hearing where Smith is expected to issue the divorce order.

The courtroom was directly above, but a fraction of the size of, courtroom 20 where the couple spent 59 days stretched over seven months in 2007 when jilted suitors Ryan Beedie and Tom Gaglardi unsuccessfully challenged the Aquilini purchase of the National Hockey League team and rink. Justice Catherine Wedge's verdict in favour of Aquilini was upheld on appeal.

The couple married in 1994, had four children and separated since early 2011. The terms of the divorce are confidential, Shirley-Patterson said.

"His first priority was looking out for the interests of his children and we're delighted to say that a settlement has been reached that achieves the priority," Shirley-Patterson said.

She called it a "difficult case" because of the "extremely complicated" assets and financial workings. "All matters have been resolved."

Co-counsel George Macintosh said the deal was reached around 4:30 p.m. the day before.

When the matter reconvened Sept. 11, court heard that the couple agreed Taliah Aquilini would assume sole custody and guardianship of their three youngest children. Justice Nathan Smith approved the divorce order, which would come into effect in a month.

The couple married May 1, 1994 and had lived separately since Jan. 23, 2011, a Sunday between two Canucks' games.

"After 22 years it is very sad that a marriage has come to an end," Taliah Aquilini said outside the Law Courts. "Unfortunately I had no choice but to ask for a divorce."

Asked why that was, she only said: "circumstances came to light that weren't conducive to marriage."

She declined to comment on whether she would receive equity in any of Francesco Aquilini's enterprises.

She said the priority all along was always her children, "the most precious treasures in my life."

Reporter Bob Mackin is a frequent contributor to The Tyee.

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