All The Legal Questions Surrounding The Biggest Celebrity Divorce Of Our Time

Photo: Fred Duval/Getty Images.
Brangelina has turned into Brangel-exit. Now that the initial shock of the split has washed over us, how will the material assets be divided in what's easily considered the biggest celebrity divorce of our time? In her divorce filing, submitted on Monday, Angelina Jolie Pitt is asking for joint legal custody of the couple's six kids, but sole physical custody. That could make a huge difference in the lives of Maddox, Pax, Zahara, Shiloh, and twins Knox and Vivienne. "Somebody could have 100% legal custody of a child that’s only living with them one day a week," Manhattan lawyer Raoul Felder told Refinery29. "Physical — or residential, as it's sometimes called — custody has to do with where they live. Legal custody has to do with every decision — what state they live in, if they vacation, what kind of surgery they get, where they go to school, what kinds of clothes they wear, anything." Felder is familiar with high-profile divorces like these, having brokered splits involving Rudy Giuliani, Stephanie Seymour, and Robin Givens. GQ has called him "Dr. Estranged Love."
The eldest child, Maddox, was adopted by Jolie in 2002, making all legal decisions surrounding him up to Jolie only, Felder explained. Though visitation could still be difficult to arrange. "What’s going to take a lot of fussing around with is the custody of the kids. All over America, courts have formulas for paying child support," said Felder. "There are no formulas for six children. Most of the formulas only go up to five. Even if they’ve worked out an outline or skeleton, the devil is going to the be in the details."

Chances are that by the time you read about a case like this, it’s all resolved.

Raoul Felder
Kerri Quintal is a Massachusetts attorney who specializes in family and criminal law. Based on her experience handling divorces, she said the ages of the children might also play a role in visitation. "The 15-year-old might have input," Quintal said. "In some custody cases a guardian ad litem is assigned — that’s an independent person who is appointed to represent the best interests of the children." Despite being together for more than a decade, Jolie and Pitt were only married for two years. Felder said that makes a critical difference in dividing the rest of their assets, even though Jolie isn't asking for spousal or child support. "The mechanics are much easier to resolve when they’ve only been married for two years. Movies, directing projects [etc.] made within those two years are considered marital property, even if the other partner had nothing to do with it. That makes a huge difference when it comes to residuals," Felder said. News of the split has been plagued by rumors of Pitt's drug use and the possibility of an affair with his Allied co-star Marion Cotillard. Quintal predicted that both — if found true by the court — might affect Pitt's visitation. "Where I practice in Massachusetts, there are 17 factors that go into a divorce. Conduct would be one of them. Depending on how egregious this conduct was — say, if he’s having a bazillion dollar affair and took the children’s college money to fund it — the court would most definitely look at that as a problem. It’s very fact specific," Quintal said. "Another part of it would be the identity of the adulteress. Is this someone the children know? Are they an upstanding citizen or do they have a jaded past?" The couple's French property leaves the most questions unanswered, since it's unclear whose name it is in. Quintal said it's likely that it will be a part of the separation agreement, including if Pitt will have to buy out Jolie, or vice versa, or if it will be sold. The easiest part of the split will be for Jolie to return to her maiden name if she wishes, Felder said. In most states there is a provision making it a part of the legal separation proceedings. Felder told us that in a contentious case like this, it's likely that they've already settled on who gets what. "The chances are that by the time you read about a case like this, it’s all resolved," Felder said. In other words, no more tossing and turning, or biting your nails worrying about the fate of House Jolie-Pitt. They'll be fine.

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