On September 14, 2016, child abuse allegations were raised against Hollywood heartthrob, Brad Pitt. The allegations were brought by Pitt’s now estranged wife, Angelina Jolie, the mother of his six children. Now, after eight long weeks of investigations and Pitt not being able to share any quality time with his children, the Los Angeles County Department of Child and Family Services has cleared him of all wrong doing, but will that matter when it comes time for a judge to decide a custody schedule for the parties’ children?
Although a judge must clearly take into consideration either party’s criminal convictions in a custody matter, one such offense would be endangering the welfare of children, there are other less overt factors the judge must review also. In the current custody pleadings, Jolie is requesting sole physical custody of the children, which would essentially mean the children would live with her and only see their father at specific times and under specific conditions. Currently, Pitt only visits with his children in a “therapeutic setting,” which usually translates into a counselor’s office or a structured visitation center. Pitt has countered Jolie’s filing requesting joint physical custody.
Under current Pennsylvania custody laws, when determining any form of custody, a judge must consider the safety of the child. This would include the judge reviewing any drug and/or alcohol issues of the parties, the mental and physical conditions of the parties, the level of conflict between the parties, as well as, any present or past incidents of abuse that have occurred between the parties or been directed toward the child. According to Jolie’s allegations, Pitt may imbibe a little too much and has on more than one occasion, become verbally combative toward her and the children. If she is able to convince the judge of these traits, Pitt may have an uphill battle when convincing the judge that a joint physical custody schedule would be in the children’s best interest. In fact, the judge may determine that before any significant custody schedule is awarded to Pitt, he would need to submit to a drug and alcohol evaluation. Surrounding his combative behavior, he could be ordered to attend individual or group anger management sessions. If he chooses to ignore the court’s request on these matters, all of his physical custody rights could be suspended until such time as he complies with the court’s directives.
Cara A. Boyanowski concentrates her practice in the field of domestic law and wills and estates. As a domestic law practitioner, she represents clients in simple and complex divorce, support, custody, alimony, step-parent adoptions, name change and same-sex divorce and custody matters. She works out of Obermayer’s Harrisburg, PA office and can be reached at 717-234-5315 or at Cara.Boyanowski@obermayer.com.