Angelina Jolie far from sure to get full custody of six children: experts
By Anthony McCartney, AP
September 23, 2016, 12:05 am TWN
LOS ANGELES -- In the global hubbub over the Brangelina divorce, Angelina Jolie Pitt's demand for sole physical custody of her six children with Brad Pitt has attracted its share of the attention. Yet experts say Jolie Pitt won't have the final say, and that Pitt and the couple's eldest son, Maddox, may even have a voice in custody arrangements.
Stacy Phillips, a veteran divorce attorney, called Jolie Pitt's request for sole physical custody a "wish list," one that could change as the divorce progresses. Phillips, like many, saw the request as a message to Pitt, although what the actress is trying to convey won't be known for some time, if ever.
Pitt has yet to file his legal response to Jolie Pitt's divorce petition, but each actor released statements Tuesday indicating their children were the priority. The pair has six children, ranging in ages from 8-year-old twins Knox and Vivienne to 15-year-old Maddox.
"It's not uncommon that a person would seek sole physical custody in their initial filing," said divorce lawyer Lori Howe. "That doesn't mean it is what they will end up seeking if they resolve the case through settlement or in a courtroom. ... She very well could change her mind as well. And there's nothing to stop her from doing that, despite having checked those boxes on her petition."
California law favors joint custody of children, and judges can generally consider the opinion of children who are 14 years or older about which parent they want to live with.
Divorce lawyers, however, say the couple can avoid placing their children in the middle of a divorce if they work out an agreement in private.
"The parents should be parents, as opposed to letting the children be the parents," said Phillips, an attorney in the Los Angeles office of Blank Rome LLP. "They didn't ask for this. They need to be kept as children."
Attorney Steven Mindel said in some instances, a judge may want to know the opinion of children younger than 14-years-old, but in general, courts encourage parents to work out the custody arrangements without protracted legal fights.
"You generally don't want a child testifying against a parent," Mindel said.
"It's emotionally draining on the child."