The divorce documents from Brad Pitt And Angelina Jolie's case only tell a part of the custody story
When I first heard that Angelina Jolie Pitt's petition for divorce from Brad Pitt includes a request for sole physical custody, I have to say, I was surprised — and skeptical.
I'm well aware that not everything we read or watch in the media can be taken at face value. I have no trouble at all believing that Brad and/or Angie may not be the "Parent Of The Millennium" they have come to be glorified as.
It just sure does seem like there are enough photos of their quality parenting time with various combinations of their adorable crew of children for me to imagine they're both doing at least as well as the rest us floundering parents.
Which is to say, I have to believe that both Brad and Angie are both doing the best they each can do.
And that's the most any of us can ever say about parenting, if we're being honest.
After looking up the petition, and doing a little case search myself, I firmly believe that — happily for the Pitt children and sadly for gossip hounds — it is unlikely that there will be any real custody "battle" to speak of.
Here are 3 glaring clues that the Pitt divorce isn't quite as nasty as "news reports" may have us believing:
1. Citing irreconcilable differences basically means there's no big whoop-dee-do.
In 1970, California became the first state to allow for no-fault divorce — meaning you no longer had to prove why being married to your spouse was so incredibly awful, but you could simply choose to get a divorce because, well, you face problems as a couple which you, as an a grown adult, have decided cannot be fixed, i.e., irreconcilable differences.
Take a quick glance at the other choices one can select from the menu options on a divorce petition in California.
- Permanent legal incapacity to make decisions.
- One partying having been underage at the time of marriage.
- One party having already been married at the time of marriage.
- One party being of unsound mind.
- Physical incapacity.
It becomes pretty self-apparent that citing "irreconcilable differences" is the most civilized, and most common, box to tick off.
2. Angelina requested she and Brad share joint legal custody, which is a very positive sign.
Angelina requested that she and Brad share JOINT legal custody, which means she intends to keep their legal responsibilities to the children as their parents exactly as they were during the marriage.
Most people lump custody into one flat box. When someone with kids gets divorced, we ask questions like, "Did she get full custody?," "Is he asking for sole custody?," and "Is custody going to be 50/50?"
This way of thinking can be highly misleading, especially when pre-judging a high-profile case we, the public, have very little information about so far.
In California, custody is broken down into two parts — legal custody and physical custody.
According the California Family Law Code:
"Joint legal custody means that both parents shall share the right and the responsibility to make the decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of a child."
"Sole legal custody means that one parent shall have the right and the responsibility to make the decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of a child."
Angie chose option #1 — joint legal custody of all six children.
3. Angelina's request for physical custody of the children DOES NOT mean she requested that Brad NOT have physical custody as well.
This is where is gets a little tricky, folks — and A LOT easy to twist the meaning into something far more dramatic than it actually is.
Again, according to California Family Law Code:
"Joint physical custody means that each of the parents shall have significant periods of physical custody. Joint physical custody shall be shared by the parents in such a way so as to assure a child of frequent and continuing contact with both parents."
"Sole physical custody means that a child shall reside with and be under the supervision of one parent, subject to the power of the court to order visitation."
This is one where the meaning of the check boxes isn't quite clear (no offense to whomever created this form, but it is honestly pretty confusing to most people when they try to fill it in themselves).
Yes, Angie did tick off physical custody should be granted to her (the Petitioner) and visitation to him (the Respondent), but see all those forms and attachments filled into the blanks under section Child Visitation?
These forms are EXTREMELY important. Here's a breakdown of what they are:
- FL-311 — Child Custody And Visitation (Parenting Time) Attachment: Basically, a detailed break down of which parent will have the kids on which days of the week on a regular basis.
- FL-312 — Request For Child Abduction Prevention Orders: This one is unusual, and none of us can speculate accurately as to why this was included.
- FL-341(C) — Children's Holiday Schedule Attachment: Meaning, who gets to be with the kids on Christmas Day and who gets to be with them on Easter, etc.
- FL-341(D) — Additional provisions—Physical Custody Attachment: More detailed co-parenting arrangements, such a babysitting decisions, allowable phone contact between each parent and the kids, instructions not to use the children as messengers, allowable substance use (including alcohol) when the children are in each parent's care, how the kids belongings will be transferred between homes, etc.
- FL-341(E) — Joint Legal Custody Attachment: Detailed choices about how the two parents will work in cooperation — or in possibly in parallel — when making decisions and being notified regarding education, medical care, participation in religious activities, etc.
- Attachent 6c(1) — This is simply a blank form that can be filled in with additional information for the court.
Because no one seems to have access (yet) to any of these forms from the Pitt files, we basically have NO ACTUAL Idea what Angelina is requesting in terms of custody.
We don't know if she is requesting supervised visitation. We don't know if she is requesting that Brad not be allowed to travel with the children. We don't know if she is requesting limitations be placed on his substance use. We don't know why she is requesting Child Abduction Prevention Orders.
For all we know, she could be requesting that Brad have the children 50% of the time.
We just don't know.
What we do know, is that these are two people who have just begun the brutal process of divorce, and that there are six children who need their parents to make it through this with as much of their existing mental, physical and emotional health intact as possible.
So let's stop trying to guess about things we will never really know and get back to our own lives, shall we?