Angelina Jolie said late Monday that she and estranged husband Brad Pitt had reached a "legal agreement" in their divorce dispute over custody of their six kids. But Pitt did not confirm it.
In her first public statement issued since she petitioned for divorce in September, Jolie's PR team said that she and Pitt had reached "a legal agreement accepted and signed by both sides over a week ago" in which Jolie would continue to have sole physical custody of the kids.
The statement continued: "In accordance with this agreement, the six children will stay in their mother's custody, and the children will continue therapeutic visits with their father. This has been determined by childcare professionals to be in the children’s best interest."
However, a source familiar with the case but not authorized to speak publicly about it says there is no new agreement and that this is an extension of the existing temporary agreement. No permanent custody has been determined.
Jolie's statement puzzled celebrity watchers and legal analysts. If the agreement is merely an extension, the custody battle remains the same as it has for the last seven weeks: She wants sole physical custody of the kids and he wants joint custody, a position he reiterated in his divorce response filed Friday.
"It could be (Jolie and Pitt) reached an agreement that says for six months the kids will remain with mom, and these are the steps or stages (Pitt) has to go through to get back to where they were (before the split)," says New York divorce lawyer Lois Liberman. "And ultimately that could mean he will be able to make legal decisions about the children but they will primarily reside with mom."
There's also no such thing as a "final" custody agreement, and especially when there's an on-going inquiry by the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, says California divorce lawyer Peter Walzer (who handled Katie Holmes' divorce from Tom Cruise).
Under California law, Dependency Court, which handles DCFS matters, takes precedence over divorce court, he says.
"No custody order is final, it’s always modifiable and it's always up to what a court decides," says Walzer. "Once the Dependency Court is called in, the lawyers lose control over the case, the parties lose control over the case, and the judge in (divorce) court loses control over the case."
Jolie and Pitt were together for 12 years and were married for two years. Their children range in age from 8 to 15. At the moment, under a temporary arrangement, the children are living with Jolie in a Malibu rented home, and Pitt has seen some of them during a handful of monitored visits.
Meanwhile, a probe by DCFS continues into what happened during a family dispute on a private flight from France to the USA in mid-September. Jolie's statement said those "events" led to her filing for divorce.
"We hope... there will be understanding of the sensitivity of the family situation," her statement concluded. "We believe that all sides are committed to healing the family and ask for your consideration during this difficult time."