Brangelina – Child Custody at the ForefrontSeptember 28, 2016
Allegations of Abuse in Brangelina Divorce
While divorce among the superstars gets more attention from the press and media, at the end of the day, the problems confronted are the same as those faced by most divorcing couples. Case in point – the current separation, pending divorce and inevitable custody battle confronting Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.
Child Custody Concerns
Ms. Jolie has filed for divorce because of an alleged incident that occurred inflight while the family was travelling from France to Minnesota. As is true in most conflict, the facts are somewhat different depending on who is telling the story. But all versions agree that an altercation of some type occurred between Mr. Pitt and the parties 15 year old son, Maddox. Some accounts have Mr. Pitt lunging at his son after Maddox came to his mother’s defense. Others say that only shouting occurred. Still others report that there was no incident. Because the incident occurred midflight, it has been referred to the FBI for investigation. In the meantime, back on land, MS Jolie has filed for custody of the parties six children and no doubt the issue of alleged child abuse will arise.
Abuse and Custody Disputes
The significance of this type of occurrence in a Pennsylvania custody dispute is clearly relevant and something that the courts should and will consider in determining a custodial arrangement for the children. The overriding criteria for the court is the determination of what is in the best interests of the children and in making that determination the custody statute directs the court to consider 16 factors. One of the factors requires that the court look at the “present and past abuse committed by either party or member of the party’s household, whether there is a continued risk of harm to the child or an abused party and which party can better provide adequate physical safeguards and supervision of the child.” (23 PaCSA Section 5328) In another section of the statute (Section 5329), parties are required to disclose in a verified statement whether the party or any member of his/her household have been convicted of or charged with a series of specific criminal offenses. These provisions are designed to help the court access the environment in which they may place the children and to help them determine which environment is better equipped to assure the children safety and well being.
16 Factors for Child Custody in Pennsylvania
However, it is important to keep in mind that the past and present abuse factor is only one of 16 factors that the court is directed to consider. Granted in cases of extreme or ongoing abuse, whether it is physical or mental, this factor may well be the deciding factor and rightly so. The bigger challenge for the court occurs when the facts surrounding the incident of abuse are not clear. In cases similar to the Jolie/Pitt case, the court will have to consider what really happened. If the court determines that something of significance did in fact occur, the next question will be whether this was a singular incident or whether the children were the frequent target of Mr. Pitt’s anger. If after hearing all of the facts, the court concludes that the children were the subject of ongoing abuse, then this factor will weigh heavily in the custodial schedule set out for the children. Supervised visits and anger management counseling might very well be recommended until the court is satisfied that the children are safe in the recommended custodial arrangement.