It’s easy to think that celebrities are somehow above the problems ordinary people face. It’s difficult to imagine famous men and women facing issues like complex divorces or dangerous personal relationships. However, people in the public eye are not immune to these types of problems. In fact, they may be at greater risk because of the world’s preconceived notions.
Even superstars like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt aren’t above these issues. Their divorce has been messy so far, dragging out to more than five years to end a marriage that only lasted two and a half with no signs of wrapping up. The worst may be yet to come, as custody has yet to be determined for their six children.
Custody battles are never easy, and the Jolie-Pitt divorce looks like it will have a significant complication. Jolie has just made herself available to testify against Pitt to offer “proof and authority in support” of his alleged domestic violence.
These claims against Pitt aren’t new; they date back to the couple’s original split in 2016. They were investigated by the FBI and the Department of Child and Family Services, which did not find signs of wrongdoing at the time. That meant that no action was taken against Pitt or Jolie.
However, any testimony regarding domestic abuse can significantly affect the final outcome of a divorce. Here’s what it means for Jolie to testify against her ex-husband and how it may change the court’s decisions in their divorce.
What Does It Mean to Testify During Divorce?
Divorce is a type of legal proceeding that dissolves a contract. As with most contracts, either party can request that the process take place in a court of law. In this situation, the divorce proceedings occur in front of a judge who makes all final decisions.
Once a divorce is brought before a judge, both parties are eligible to bring in witnesses and testimony. Since they can’t agree on dividing things independently, the goal is to convince the judge that their preferred outcome is the most just solution. Witnesses can be experts, such as therapists or custody evaluators, or they can be non-experts who have first-hand knowledge of the situation.
In the Jolie-Pitt divorce, Jolie would be her own non-expert witness. If she goes on the stand during a divorce hearing to discuss alleged domestic violence, her testimony will be considered evidence during the divorce. The judge can then use that testimony to guide decisions about things like alimony and child custody.
How Do Claims of Domestic Violence Affect Divorces?
For obvious reasons, claims of domestic violence are taken very seriously by the California legal system. One of California family law courts’ goals is to protect people who may be in danger from their partners. That leads to three important potential adjustments.
Suppose someone is in a highly dangerous situation while they try to leave their partner. In that case, they can get emergency orders put in place. An emergency, or ex parte, order is a temporary restraining order that limits how the other party can act until the date of the first divorce hearing.
These orders require immediate proof of significant injury before they will be put in place, so they are only rarely used. They can restrict the other party’s access to joint accounts, joint property, and child custody. The orders can become permanent at the next hearing, or they can be eliminated depending on the judge’s view of the situation.
The Jolie-Pitt divorce has moved past the point of emergency orders. Instead, they’ve moved on to considering permanent orders such as spousal support and child custody.
California law states that a history of abuse must be considered when the court awards spousal support during a divorce. Documented spousal violence is grounds to reduce the alimony the abused partner must need to pay their abuser.
In fact, current precedent guides judges to cut alimony entirely in cases with documented violence. The thought is that it is unjust for a victim of abuse to have to support their abuser because they took steps to leave.
In the Jolie-Pitt divorce, this could significantly affect the final court orders. Depending on their respective earnings, Jolie’s testimony could entirely erase the alimony she might otherwise be expected to pay.
Child Custody and Child Support
Custody is perhaps more critical than alimony in most relationships. Designing a fair custody and child support arrangement looks dramatically different if one partner has a history of violence. Many judges are rightly hesitant to grant custody to parents with a documented history of abusing children or their spouses.
As a result, Jolie’s testimony again Pitt may have two significant effects. First, if her testimony is considered reliable, Pitt is unlikely to get custody of their joint children. Second, without custody, Pitt is much more likely to be ordered to pay child support.
In California, there is a specific child support equation that judges must follow. For people with Pitt and Jolie’s income, that equation is likely to generate an extremely high number for their six children.
If Jolie’s testimony is taken as proof of domestic violence, Pitt will likely get hit with significant child support and lose custody of his children. Abuse is no joke, and these allegations could affect him for the rest of his life.
No One is Immune to Abuse; Protect Yourself and Your Family
Domestic violence can occur in any relationship, no matter how well off or well-known a family may be. Even Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie can face these kinds of problems in their personal lives. Abuse is never acceptable. No one should have to pay for their abuser’s lifestyle or lose custody of their joint children just because they’re brave enough to leave.
If you are in an abusive relationship and want out, don’t hesitate to get help. An experienced divorce attorney can help you separate from your partner and fight for your rights as a victim. Reach out today to learn more about your options regarding domestic violence and divorce.