“Brangelina” is the Family Law Corner gift that keeps on giving. CNN obtained the most recent custody order in their ongoing dispute, wherein a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge found that that the former couple’s six children “not having a relationship with their father is harmful to them . . . ” and “it is critical that each of them have a healthy and strong relationship with their father and mother.” In 2016, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s marriage came to an abrupt end when Pitt was accused of hitting the parties’ eldest son during a drunken argument on a transatlantic flight. L.A. County Dept. of Children and Family Services (DCFS) received an anonymous report, supposedly not from Jolie, regarding the incident. Pitt was ultimately cleared of the allegation.
In the recent order, the Judge further stated “[i]f the minor children remain closed down to their father and depending on the circumstances surrounding this condition, it may result in a reduction of the time they spend with [Jolie] and may result in the Court ordering primary physical custody to [Pitt].” Findings like this strongly suggest that the Court believes that Jolie is alienating the children from Pitt. Parental alienation is not well documented in the California case law, though the few published (and unpublished) appellate cases upheld trial court decisions to grant sole custody to the alienated parent.
The Court of Appeal in Steiner v. Hosseini referred to a trial court’s decision as “well within reason” to award sole custody of the younger son to the father and sole custody of the older son to the mother. Mother had apparently “poisoned” the older son against father, and the Court found that giving father sole custody of the younger son was “perhaps the only way to prevent that kind of alienation from occurring.” Steiner v. Hosseini (2004) 117 Cal.App.4th 519, 529.
Along with very specific orders regarding visitation and phone calls between Pitt and the children, the Judge also ordered Jolie to arrange a phone call with the kids and their doctors to explain to the children that “the court has determined that each of them are safe with their father.” Jolie may want to heed the advice of the Appellate Court in In re Marriage of Moschetta (1994) 25 Cal.App.4th 1218 which stated “[i]t is common knowledge among family law practitioners that the quickest way for a parent to lose primary physical custody is for that parent to obstruct the visitation rights of the other parent.” As for Pitt, he likely didn’t anticipate this never-ending fight club.
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