Brangelina split: Divorce still about custody, and no end in sight

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are no closer to resolution of their contentious divorce, but Pitt's first court filing in the case underscores what it's been all about since their split stunned Hollywood: Custody of six kids.

Pitt filed his response in Los Angeles late Friday to Jolie's September divorce petition. Where she checked the box for seeking sole physical custody, Pitt checked the box for joint custody.

The pair have been together for 12 years but married for only 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 Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services continues into what happened during a family dispute on a private flight from France to the USA in mid-September.

Did Pitt verbally or physically abuse his oldest son, Maddox, 15, when the boy stepped in to defend Jolie during an argument? Is Jolie concerned about Pitt's parenting, his behavior or his alleged drinking? Is there something fundamentally wrong with the family unit that would affect custody questions in the divorce?

So far, there are no conclusions from DCFS, which is barred by law from commenting and hasn't even officially confirmed there is an investigation. Nevertheless, unnamed sources in both camps have been leaking regularly about the probe and the behind-the-scenes warfare between the couple and the negotiations between their lawyers.

The only battle playing out in public is in the media. TMZ, for instance, has regularly posted stories citing unnamed "Angelina sources" arguing her side. The latest story, posted Monday, featured an antagonizing headline about how "Brad's dreaming" if he thinks he's getting joint custody.

The new media meme about the Brangelina divorce, says TMZ, is that it's a replay of the 1989 movie War of the Roses — although that particular divorcing couple fought over a house, not custody of the kids. But never mind, the meme stands regardless.

People, meanwhile, seems a little more sympathetic to Pitt. Its latest story, posted Saturday, suggested Pitt's filing on Friday could be a worrisome sign that negotiations between the two legal teams had broken down. But it also found an unnamed source who claimed Jolie has cancelled all work in order to be a full-time mom for the kids.

Pitt's work obligations will pop up sooner, he stars with Marion Cotillard in the upcoming spy thriller Allied, although it's not clear yet whether he will promote the film, which opens Nov. 23. He is not listed to attend a press conference for the film this Friday in Los Angeles with Cotillard and director Robert Zemeckis.

California divorce courts generally favor joint custody; thus the DCFS investigation could influence how a divorce-court judge determines final custody arrangements after the divorce. If Pitt and Jolie want to keep their ugly fight out of the public courtroom, it's in their interests to reach a private agreement over the kids.

But so far, a private agreement doesn't appear to be close.

Pitt's filing does not include any new details about the couple's breakup. He cited irreconcilable differences and makes no mention of a prenuptial agreement that will govern how the pair divides their assets (neither did Jolie's). Like Jolie, Pitt also cites Sept. 15 as the day of their separation, one day after the alleged plane altercation.

The pair recently sold a home they purchased in New Orleans' French Quarter for $4.9 million, suggesting the division of property won't be as much a bone of contention as the custody question. The couple own several properties jointly, including Chateau Miraval, their wine-making estate in the south of France, where they celebrated their marriage in 2014.

To date, both have stayed away from cameras since their split. Pitt skipped the Sept. 28 premiere of the Terrence Malick's new documentary Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience, which he narrated. In a statement, Pitt said he was "focused on my family situation and don't want to distract attention away from this extraordinary film."

Jolie earlier this year finished shooting her fourth feature as director, First They Killed My Father. The film, about the 1970s Khmer Rouge regime, was shot in Cambodia.

Contributing: The Associated Press


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