Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s divorce proceeding will turn five years old in September. From what we can see of the slow-moving divorce, it has been enormously contentious, mainly around the custody issues of their children. Although I’d be curious to learn if they’ve handled the financial aspects of their divorce, because I think that is still on-going as well. For years now, Brad and Angelina have been employing a private judge, Judge John Ouderkirk, to oversee their divorce proceedings. Last year, Angelina tried to have the judge kicked off the case because her lawyer discovered that Ouderkirk had been doing business with Pitt’s lawyers for years and Ouderkirk had failed to disclose that to the court. Ouderkirk fought the issue and refused to recuse himself from the case. And now that same judge is refusing to allow the Jolie-Pitt children to testify in court and Angelina is calling him out, yet again.
Angelina Jolie criticized a judge deciding on custody arrangements for her and Brad Pitt’s children during their divorce, saying in a court filing that the judge refused to allow their kids to testify. Jolie, who has sought to disqualify Judge John Ouderkirk from the divorce case, said in the filing Monday that he declined to hear evidence she says is relevant to the children’s safety and well-being before issuing a tentative ruling. The documents don’t elaborate on what that evidence may be.
“Judge Ouderkirk denied Ms. Jolie a fair trial, improperly excluding her evidence relevant to the children’s health, safety, and welfare, evidence critical to making her case,” according to the filing in California’s Second District Court of Appeal.
The actress also said the judge “has failed to adequately consider” a section of the California courts code, which says it is detrimental to the best interest of the child if custody is awarded to a person with a history of domestic violence. Her filing did not give details about what it was referring to, but her lawyers submitted a document under seal in March that purportedly offers additional information.
Her new filing says the judge has “refused to hear the minor teenagers’ input as to their experiences, needs, or wishes as to their custody fate,” citing a California code that says a child 14 or over should be allowed to testify if they want to. Three of Jolie and Pitt’s six children are teenagers, 17-year-old Pax, 16-year-old Zahara, and 14-year-old Shiloh. The oldest, Maddox, is 19 and not subject to the custody decision. They also have 12-year-old twins, Vivienne and Knox.
In response to Jolie’s filing, Pitt’s attorneys said, “Ouderkirk has conducted an extensive proceeding over the past six months in a thorough, fair manner and reached a tentative ruling and order after hearing from experts and percipient witnesses.”
Pitt’s filing said the judge found Jolie’s testimony “lacked credibility in many important areas, and the existing custody order between the parties must be modified, per Mr. Pitt’s request, in the best interests of the children.” It says Jolie’s objections and further delays in reaching an arrangement would “work grave harm upon the children, who will be further denied permanence and stability.”
It’s not clear what the current custody arrangement is because the court seals most files. When the divorce process began, Jolie sought primary physical custody — meaning the children would live more than half the time with her — but changes have been made that have not been made public. Pitt sought joint custody.
Others close to Jolie say her family struggles have prompted her to take a more active role in changing the law’s approach to custody issues. “Ms. Jolie has been working privately for four and a half years to both heal her family and to fight for improvements to the system to ensure that other families do not experience what hers has endured,” Peter Harvey, an attorney and former attorney general of New Jersey who has been working with Jolie on policy issues, told The Associated Press.
Jolie has sought to disqualify Ouderkirk, a private judge she and Pitt chose to maintain their privacy, arguing that he has an improper business relationship with one of Pitt’s attorneys. She said in Monday’s filing that if the tentative custody decision is made final by Ouderkirk, she will appeal it.
So, Jolie’s filing says that the custody trial/hearing is a failure because Ouderkirk failed to allow the Jolie-Pitt children to testify about how they feel about their parents. Pitt’s response is that Jolie is just generally a liar. Yeah, this is a f–king mess and Ouderkirk should have recused himself last year. I’m curious as to what is contained in the sealed documents but I bet it’s horrific. Pitt does not want any of this going public, which is why he’s still ride-or-die for Ouderkirk, who is clearly partial to his main employer, the law firm representing Brad Pitt.
Photos courtesy of Backgrid.