Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, have announced their separation after 18 years of marriage.
In statements posted on Instagram on Wednesday, the couple said they made the decision after “many meaningful and difficult conversations” and requested privacy.
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“As always, we remain a close family with deep love and respect for each other and for everything we have built and will continue to build,” they said.
A statement from the prime minister’s office said the couple have signed a legal separation agreement.
Trudeau, the 51-year-old scion of one of Canada’s most famous politicians, was sworn into office in 2015. Gregoire Trudeau is a former model and TV host. The couple were married in May 2005 and have three children, aged 15, 14 and nine.
An official familiar with the matter told the Reuters news agency that the couple would have joint custody of their children. Trudeau and the children will continue to live at Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, the prime minister’s official residence, where he has lived since 2015.
Gregoire Trudeau will be moving into separate accommodation in Ottawa but plans to spend plenty of time with the children in Rideau Cottage to ensure they have as normal an upbringing as possible, the source said.
“They remain a close family, and Sophie and the prime minister are focused on raising their kids in a safe, loving and collaborative environment,” the statement from Trudeau’s office said. “The family will be together on vacation, beginning next week.”
Justin Trudeau and Sophie Gregoire met as children when she was a classmate of his youngest brother, Michel, and they reconnected as adults when they co-hosted a 2003 charity gala.
They married two years later.
Vogue magazine ran a glowing profile of the two in its January 2016 issue, complete with photos of them embracing. A long piece in the magazine about Trudeau said he “shocks some with his public displays of affection toward his wife”.
In the early years after Trudeau took office, he and Gregoire Trudeau were often seen together at social functions and on foreign trips.
Trudeau, though, made it clear even before he became prime minister that the two had faced challenges, writing in his autobiography Common Ground in 2014 that “our marriage isn’t perfect, and we have had difficult ups and downs”.
In recent years, Gregoire Trudeau has curtailed joint appearances with her husband and signs of stress were clear. The two were seen together publicly at Canada Day events in Ottawa last month.
On their wedding anniversary last year, she said in a social media post that “we have navigated through sunny days, heavy storms, and everything in between and it ain’t over”.
She went on: “Long-term relationships are challenging in so many ways.”
Trudeau is the second prime minister to announce a separation while in office.
His father, Pierre Trudeau, and mother, Margaret Trudeau, separated in 1979 and divorced in 1984 during the elder Trudeau’s final year in the prime minister’s office.