BRAD PITT AND ANGELINA JOLIE CUSTODY DISPUTE: WHAT IMPACT DOES DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND CHILD ABUSE HAVE?
The custody dispute between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie has been ongoing for some time.
Under California law, it appears that domestic violence and child abuse could have a negative impact on a parent’s joint custody request. There is a presumption that if the parent perpetrated an act or violence or child abuse that he or she should not get either joint or sole custody of the children. California Family Code provides as follows:
(c) For purposes of this section, a person has “perpetrated domestic violence” when he or she is found by the court to have
intentionally or recklessly caused or attempted to cause bodily injury, or sexual assault, or to have placed a person in reasonable apprehension of imminent serious bodily injury to that person or to another, or to have engaged in any behavior involving, but not limited to, threatening, striking, harassing, destroying personal property or disturbing the peace of another, for which a court may issue an ex parte order pursuant to Section 6320 to protect the other party seeking custody of the child or to protect the child and the child’s siblings.
(d) (1) For purposes of this section, the requirement of a finding by the court shall be satisfied by, among other things, and not limited to, evidence that a party seeking custody has been convicted within the previous five years, after a trial or a plea of guilty or no contest, of any crime against the other party that comes within the definition of domestic violence contained in Section 6211 and of abuse contained in Section 6203, including, but not limited to, a crime described in subdivision (e) of Section 243 of, or Section 261, 262, 273.5, 422, or 646.9 of, the Penal Code. (2) The requirement of a finding by the court shall also be satisfied if any court, whether that court hears or has heard the child custody proceedings or not, has made a finding pursuant to subdivision (a) based on conduct occurring within the previous five years.
(e) When a court makes a finding that a party has perpetrated domestic violence, the court may not base its findings solely on
conclusions reached by a child custody evaluator or on the recommendation of the Family Court Services staff, but shall consider any relevant, admissible evidence submitted by the parties.
(f) In any custody or restraining order proceeding in which a party has alleged that the other party has perpetrated domestic violence in accordance with the terms of this section, the court shall inform the parties of the existence of this section and shall give them a copy of this section prior to any custody mediation in the case.
This is not hugely surprising. It makes sense that courts in California, indeed in all states in the union, consider factors such as domestic violence and take child abuse allegations seriously within the context of a custody award. In the case of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, obviously all the information has not been disclosed so it is impossible to know whether in fact there has been “child abuse” and “domestic violence” that has been perpetrated in this family or whether it was just a really bad disagreement that got blown out of control. What we do know is the FBI and Child Welfare Services were called and both conducted an investigation.
In order for Angelina Jolie to gain sole custody of her six children with Brad Pitt she will have to show that Mr Pitt, her husband, has a history of domestic violence or child abuse. Well, to be clear, one incident of abuse or domestic violence could be deemed sufficient. It depends on the circumstances. But in Angelina and Brad’s case, chances are, that unless she and Maddox have bruises and cuts showing that Brad really abused them, Angelina will have to provide a lot more proof of a pattern of behaviour before a judge grants her sole custody of those children because Brad’s lawyers are going to push back very hard.
And Angelina better be careful. Because there is also a presumption of “co-parenting” in California and that is going to mean that parents are going to have to be able to communicate and to have a good relationship with each other and with the children. If it looks at all like Angelina is alienating the children from Brad or deliberately trying to stir up trouble with Brad and the kids, she not only could lose her bid for sole custody, she won’t even get joint custody with Brad. That is, he could end up with the kids and she gets visitation!
More on Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie Custody dispute here.