Family law and child custody have once again been brought to the forefront of Hollywood news with the recent announcement that Judge John Ouderkirk has decided to award Brad Pitt joint custody of his children with Angelina Jolie. The decision applies to five Jolie-Pitt children who are all under the age of eighteen (18). A recent filing revealed that Jolie planned to appeal the decision, although sources say she does not object to the joint custody decision but instead objects to “other issues that are of concern.”
There is no doubt that COVID-19 has hugely impacted the court system. Court closures and delays have caused court dockets to become severely backlogged, with many families hanging in the balance awaiting their case to be heard. However, Jolie and Pitt have experienced significant delays and hurdles throughout the process well before COVID-19. Jolie first filed for divorce from Pitt in September 2016. At that time, the couple had only been wedded for a mere two years but had been together for over a decade. When filing for divorce, Jolie requested primary custody of her and Pitt’s six children. Later, the couple decide to bifurcate the process, allowing them to officially divorce but hold open additional claims, such as child custody, for adjudication at a later date.
In December 2018, E! News reported that the couple had reached a custody agreement based upon the recommendations of the child custody evaluator. According to E! News, an order was signed by a judge, eliminating the need for a trial. Although the specifics of the custody agreement remain confidential, it was noted that the agreement was in the best interests of the couple’s children. Although an agreement was reached, disagreements remained, which eventually led to the trial before Judge Ouderkirk.
In Guilford County, parties often reach custody agreements by consent before their matter is scheduled for trial before a judge. If a Child Custody Order by Consent is signed by a judge, the ability for either party to change the terms therein depends on whether the Consent Order is permanent or temporary. An experienced family law attorney can help guide their clients in making decisions as to whether to enter into a Consent Order and what terms should be included within the Consent Order.