It’s the divorce that shook the world.
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are splitting up, and it’s already turning messy. Some people are pointing to Marion Cotillard, Pitt’s co-star in the upcoming “Allied,” as a culprit, and others are saying that Pitt has drinking and anger issues that led Jolie to file for a divorce.
We talked to Raoul Felder,
one of the top divorce attorneys in the world, to break down how the process might play out. In his half-century career, Felder has represented clients in high-profile divorce settlements and paternity cases that involved celebrities like Rudy Giuliani, Martin Scorsese, Mike Tyson, Tom Clancy, and Peter O’Toole.
Celebrities go through the same legal process everyone else does, Felder said. But with complicated cases like the Pitt-Jolie one, the process would probably take anywhere between “eight months to a year-and-a-half.”
“The difference is that they have a lot of advisers, a lot of people around them, and a lot of money to spend and waste on these things,” Felder said. “So it’s extremely protracted.”
Here’s what we can expect:
The most complicated issue is what will happen to their children.
The Jolie-Pitt household has six children: Maddox, Pax, Zahara, Knox, Vivienne, and Shiloh.
Jolie filed for physical custody for all of them. But she asked the judge to allow Pitt to have visitation rights and joint legal custody,
according to TMZ.
In California, “physical custody” refers to where the children will live after the divorce or separation. “Legal custody” refers to the right to make major decisions about the child’s life, like where each child will go to school, whether they’d engage in religious activities, and healthcare needs.
There are a lot of different kinds of “visitation,” but it basically refers to a situation where a parent can visit their children while the children are in the physical custody of the other parent.
Let’s break this down when it comes to Angelina Jolie’s divorce filing.
Again, she’s asking for sole physical custody, joint legal custody, and for Pitt to have visitation rights, according to TMZ. That means she wants all six of her children to live with her, but she and Pitt will make major decisions about their lives together, and Pitt will be able to visit their children in yet-undefined circumstances.
That’s all if Jolie gets it her way. Pitt’s lawyers may present their own argument for a different form of child custody.
And that’s just the beginning.
Their adopted children may be treated differently from their biological ones.
Three of Jolie and Pitt’s children were adopted from different countries, and three are biologically theirs. In the eyes of the law though, that doesn’t really matter.
“Once you’re adopted, you’re the same as a naturally born child of a marriage,” Felder said.
However, the court will have to decide on a form of custody and visitation that’s in “the best interest” for each child.
Courts don’t usually separate siblings into different households. Because each child comes from such divergent backgrounds, they’re going to each be considered on their own terms. Each child might have distinctly different needs, problems, and pasts that could complicate the custody process. The court might find Jolie better than Pitt at handling a particular child’s issues, or vice versa.
The twins, Knox and Vivienne, will likely be considered together because their backgrounds are similar, Felder said. With the other four children, that makes five different “interests” to protect in total.
Each child is going to have their own psychiatric evaluation.
“It’s bad enough if you have two children, born of a marriage,” Felder said. “But let’s say you have two children who were adopted at different times, it gets worse. Here, you have six children!”
Normally, a court psychologist writes a report about the parents and children. In this case, each will need their own evaluation process because they each have different backgrounds.
“That requires interviews with the children, the parents alone, the children alone, the parents together with the children — each combination,” Felder said. “That all takes a lot of time when you even have one child.”
Maddox, Pax, Zahara, and Shiloh were all partly raised in different countries. They weren’t adopted as infants, so they’re still very much products of their home countries. To properly evaluate them, the court might have to get psychologists with expertise in children from the countries they’re from.
“These children are individuals,” Felder said. “They have vastly different cultural sense to some degree … I don’t know if an American psychologist has any sense about cultural norms in other countries.”
Will Jolie’s international humanitarian work help her case? Felder doesn’t think so.
“I think judges take people as they find them,” he said. “I don’t think they’d be impressed with that at all. I think she’ll bring it up, though.”
The allegations about Brad Pitt’s anger and drinking issues will be explored by the court.
In the original TMZ report,
“Angelina became ‘fed up’ with Brad’s consumption of weed and possibly alcohol, and mixed with what she believes is ‘an anger problem'” that led her to file for a divorce.
Felder told INSIDER that the court would most likely look into evidence that Pitt is an alcoholic or that he has anger issues. Pitt is currently being investigated by the Los Angeles Police Department and the LA County Department of Children and Family Services following allegations that he was “verbally abusive and physical with his children,” TMZ reported on Thursday.
“If there’s any evidence at all about it, this is obviously pertinent about someone’s capability to be with children,” he said.
Brad Pitt might get royalty from the movies Angelina Jolie directed.
In addition to figuring out where the children go, a big issue is how the couple will divide their property. The most valuable property might be royalty from their movies.
There are two ways movie stars get paid: with a salary or with a royalty. A royalty is a percentage of the revenue or profit made from a film. Usually, actors and crew get a salary while directors and producers get a salary plus a royalty.
However, A-list actors, like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, will often negotiate for a royalty for their acting gigs. These dividends can continue to roll in for years after the movie comes out, from stuff like DVD sales and streaming deals.
In addition to being an actor, Pitt is also an Oscar-winning producer, making movies like “The Big Short” and “12 Years a Slave” through his company, Plan B.
Jolie has directed three feature films: “In the Land of Blood and Honey,” “Unbroken,” and “By the Sea,” the latter of which co-starred Pitt, and which he co-produced. (She’s also directed two documentaries.)
These income sources are considered a form of “property” by law, and Pitt and Jolie will have to figure out how they want to split it up.
“If the movie was made during the marriage, then it was marital property and will be shared, in California’s case, 50-50,” Felder said.
Pitt and Jolie might ask for an even bigger slice of their pies. They can argue that they helped each other make their movies and thus deserve even more money.
“Let’s assume that she’s the director [of a film] and it was made during the marriage, and then she makes appearances to promote her film,” Felder said. “In that case, she might have grounds to ask for 100% of the money for the film.”
Angelina’s health problems could become a huge question.
In 2013, Jolie revealed
that she’s genetically preconditioned for breast cancer and ovarian cancer. She had a double-mastectomy to prevent breast cancer, and later on, she got surgery
to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes to prevent ovarian cancer.
If the divorce fight gets really nasty, Jolie’s health history might be used against her.
“One of the things at stake is her physical stamina to take care of six kids,” Felder said. “It’s unpleasant to have to talk about it, but that’s a question that could come up.”
It sounds harsh, but Felder’s seen that kind of tactic used before.
“I once had a custody case where a person went blind,” Felder said. “It was painful, but he had to be examined to see if he was able to pick up a ball, to see how he could interface with a child, because he was blind. And I think this is natural fodder for a cross-examiner.”
The fight over their fancy estates will probably start a whole new trial.
The couple owns several expensive houses and estates around the world. Those will have to be split up between Pitt and Jolie during the divorce.
The court will try to split them up according to their value. Mathematically, the easiest way to do that would be to sell them all and split up the money made from the sale. But people rarely do that, Felder said. Instead, Jolie will likely get some of the places, and Pitt will get the others based on which ones they like better.
But who decides how much each place is worth?
“When Angelina gets the values, the husband is going to say, ‘hey, wait a second, I won’t take your values. I want my people evaluating it!'” Felder said. “So then you get two separate evaluations.” Depending on who wants each property, they will value them as high or low.
If they each come up with divergent values for their properties, there’s going to be a whole other trial to determine the true values of the properties.
The estate evaluators will likely be from the same areas as the properties they’re evaluating, and they will have to be flown in to California to give their testimonies.
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