Many know Angelina Jolie as a movie star and worldwide ambassador for the United Nations. But in the midst of a bitter divorce from Brad Pitt, she is also becoming an unwitting educator on the difficulties of navigating the line between protecting one’s children and alienating one’s children from their father.
The divorce battle started over an incident at an airport where Brad Pitt allegedly became intoxicated and abusive toward the children. An investigation through Child Services ensued while Angelina filed for divorce and received temporary sole custody of the parties’ children.
Generally, when a situation like this occurs, the court wants to move as expeditiously as possible to determine if the parent in question truly poses a risk of harm to the children. In this case, the court appointed a guardian ad litem to represent the children and ordered a variety of psychological assessments to determine the fitness of Brad to parent.
After the investigation, Child Services and/or the psychologist will determine either that the parent poses a present risk of harm and should not spend time with the children until those problems get resolved, or that the parent does not pose a present risk of harm and the reunification process should begin.
It seems that the investigations resulted in a finding that Brad no longer poses a risk of harm to the children and should begin to exercise visits. Angelina reacted as quite a few parents do in these situations – she questioned whether the investigation was correct and was hesitant to have visits continue, fearing for the welfare of the children.
But the court does not like it when a parent does not listen to its orders. So, the court gave Angelina an ultimatum – begin the visits immediately or the court will consider transferring custody to Brad.
Angelina and Brad agreed to a temporary custody schedule for the summer, and it began this past weekend for Father’s Day. By complying with the court order so far, she is giving the kids a chance to reunite with Brad and allowing the court to assess how the children fare with each parent.
Angelina is giving parents in similar situations a teachable moment. Many parents worry that the children may not be safe with the other parent because of a variety of factors – a lack of a suitable residence, alcohol or other substance abuse, other issues of neglect – but may not have sufficient proof. Once a court says the evidence of harm is not present, not all parents remain convinced and they may want to disregard the court’s order. It seems this was Angelina’s first move and she tried to get the court to reconsider. But without actual proof, the court only became frustrated with her, believing she was the problem, not Brad, that she was manufacturing crises so that the children would not want to be with their father.
Ultimately, Angelina did the smart thing and followed the judge’s order. Obviously, if she feels a real threat of harm exists, she has avenues to pursue in the courts, including emergency appeals – but she would have to have proof. Lacking that proof in the meantime, she must comply. If her fears are well founded, they will bear out in the litigation. If not, the children will get to some sense of normalcy in their relationships with both parents. But if Angelina persists in a false narrative about Brad, she risks losing the custody she holds so dear – a lesson parents in Missouri and every state learn every day. It is one thing to protect your kids in a real risk of harm; it is quite another thing to make something out of nothing to gain an advantage in court – a move that could backfire (and almost did for Angelina).
If you have questions about following custody orders and parental alienation, contact us – we can help.