For those of you who are not regular readers of Page Six, you may not be aware that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have just been back in court. Again.
Although they are believed to have combined assets of $500 million, the biggest issue throughout their dispute—they were divorced in 2019—is the custody arrangement for five of their six children. (The eldest is now 19 and so not part of the dispute, at least legally.)
Pitt won the most recent round, a ruling Jolie intends to appeal. So, what are some lessons other parents can take away from a legal fight that's lasted nearly five years?
The longer a custody fight drags on, the more expensive it becomes.
While the matter is sealed to the public, leaks to the media indicate that early in 2021, the court tentatively granted Pitt joint custody of the children. Getting to this point involved hiring an expert judge, which can often run to $50,000 upfront for a five-day trial and $10,000 to review documents ahead of time.
They also pulled in expert witnesses, which can be $500 an hour or more. Divorce attorneys have been quoted as estimating legal fees for the pair heading into million-dollar territory.
A focus on winning often means everybody loses.
By all accounts, Jolie is showing no signs of giving up, appealing the ruling for joint custody. Tellingly, she is rumored to have changed lawyers several times, insisting that she will keep going until she gets what she wants, which appears to be to cut Pitt out of the children's lives.
Despite the couple's insistence on privacy, Jolie has given numerous interviews that have proved damaging to Pitt's reputation, including allegations of domestic violence (no charges have ever been brought). Not only has this undoubtedly been distressing for Pitt, but it's no doubt deeply upsetting to the children.
Having a healthy relationship with both parents, where possible, is critical for a child's development into adulthood. Even if your former spouse isn't a perfect parent (and who is?), he or she—barring proof of abuse or neglect—still deserves access to the children, and the children deserve the same.
The court will decide what is in the children's best interests.
While parents love their children and believe they know what's best for them, divorce can take that decision out of their hands.
While mediation is the best, quickest, and least expensive course of action, there are a significant number of parents who decide to head to court. They soon realize that both sides are handing over a lot of control.
In the latest hearing, Jolie was rumored to be pushing for at least three of the children to testify, presumably against their father. By all accounts (again, this is all tabloid fodder), the judge ruled against it.
This is common, as it has it's become clear in recent years that children being forced to testify in their own custody hearing is traumatizing, with the effects sometimes persisting for a lifetime. The judge likely ruled that the negative effects of testifying outweighed the benefits.
So, while the children most certainly spoke with mental health professionals about their feelings on the matter, they did not testify as Jolie wished.
Every day you spend fighting with your ex-spouse is a day you could be enjoying with your children.
With the youngest children in the Jolie-Pitt saga just turning 12, it's entirely possible that this fight will drag on until they are of age, in another six years. This will mean almost a decade of uncertainty, pain, and sadness for all concerned, and child-parent relationships that may be frayed beyond repair.
Don't learn lessons like these the hard way—Attorney Joseph D. Lento can guide you through the New Jersey custody process and help you reach a resolution that works for everyone. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 for an appointment today.