Currently trending is the day to day revelations of the Pitt and Jolie divorce/custody/domestic violence/child abuse case. We all hear about the allegations of physical abuse, asset division and custody posturing going on between the high profile couple. To read more about this story check out the Huffington Post article.
Fortunately, most people won’t have to endure the emotional toll of such cases as well as the media circus surrounding the couple. While the tabloids and “news” outlets jockey over the latest round of allegations, thousands of people face similar situations in their daily lives going through family court. Let’s break down some of the details of how this high profile case mirror’s millions of people’s relationship realities.
Domestic Violence/Child Abuse/Custody
It is really very common for separating parties to allege horrific acts against the children. This behavior gives rise to two questions that I will answer based on the realities of the court process. The first question is why are these claims made? The second question is how do such claims impact on the case? To answer the first questions we must look at it from the perspective of the parties. Motivation becomes an important consideration. A person’s motive may be to protect the children (assuming the allegations are true), or the motivation may be to get a “leg up” in the custody case, or the motivation may be to create leverage on other issues. Of course, the answer always given is for the children, however, the reality is usually a little bit of all of these reasons. I know that isn’t the politically correct answer but it’s the reality. Nobody admits it, but it’s the truth. I’m not saying that parties aren’t concerned about the children but I also know from having practiced in family law for over 20 years that conduct one day that is considered “normal” in a household can very easily become the basis for abuse/domestic violence the next day based on a difference in the posture of the case. I’m not saying that this is right or correct or even encouraged, but it is the reality based on the second question of how such allegations impact on the case.
Domestic violence/abuse allegations impact greatly in an overall family law case. The mere allegation causes most courts to “err on the side of caution” and award “temporary custody” to the parent making the accusations. It may also result in the accuser winning access to the family residence. There are many “incentives” for making such claims. This is not to say that real world abuse and violence do not occur. They absolutely do and the law must take care of such situations. However, more and more frequently custody cases are infused with allegations of abuse and violence because such allegations get the quickest attention and temporary resolution.
Thus, in the context of the Pitt/Jolie case many families going through family court can relate to the process of the allegations and resulting outcome and impact on custody and the overall divorce. What makes sensational news should be considered through the lens of each party’s motivation in the current situation.
Every couple going through a divorce is all too familiar with the court’s power to divide the party’s assets and debts. More often than not this division can negatively impact each party for years after the divorce. When families live from pay check to pay check under one roof with incomes suddenly split and take on two separate households without increasing their incomes then a financial disaster is inevitable. In the Pitt/Jolie case each side is posturing to protect their various assets and income. Discussions about prenuptial agreements, child support, alimony and support are the basis of concern for many divorcing couples. Time will tell the strength of their positions, but the take away for most people going through such situations is to be aware. Be aware of the implications of a divorce. Be aware of any flaws or weaknesses in prenuptial agreements. Realize that most asset divisions do not result in black and white answers. There is always a lot of gray areas. Considerations for how the assets were obtained; when the assets were obtained and any subsequent conduct that may impact on the value and characteristics of assets are important considerations. Of course asset division can also spill over into the custody issues as well. Courts like to keep the children as stable as possible in their home. This means that such considerations could impact on the division of assets, such as the family home based on who may “win” custody.
In sum, the Pitt/Jolie split and ongoing drama may be sensational news, but taking away the amount of money involved, the issues being discussed aren’t really out of the ordinary in family court. The media may hype the issues and we may find some odd interest in the lives of the famous, but there really isn’t anything in their case that is very unique; just sit in family court and see!