Not all celebrity couples provide teachable moments for divorce, but in the case of the end of the Brad Pitt-Angelina Jolie marriage, we can learn some very important lessons.
First, a well-thought out and thorough prenuptial agreement can simplify much of the conflict in a divorce. Money tends to be the focus of how a couple, in pain due to the breakup of the marriage, seek to score points or inflict pain on each other. If, at the start of the marriage, the parties agree to a division of property that fairly protects their interests, one large weapon in a divorce gets taken off the table. Brad and Angelina, collectively worth hundreds of millions of dollars, managed to settle any property and support issues early on in their relationship. So, if a couple of that wealth can do it, we all can do it.
Second, keeping marriage a private affair helps keep divorce a private and less mortifying process. We have talked often of the damage spouses do to one another through social media, how that public airing only hurts both spouses for years to come. While many accuse Brad and Angelina of micromanaging a public image, one easily could argue that every couple should want to do that – put your best face forward and leave the less-than-savory details to themselves. Not only does it protect their marriage and their children, it does protect their economic interests as both are public figures. While we may not enjoy the same level of exposure, we have reputations and business interests that could suffer if we aired our divorce dirty laundry on social media.
Third, when making that move to file for divorce, have a specific plan, particularly one that minimizes how much the public needs to know about your family life. We have only speculation about what has happened with Brad and Angelina and the children, and that works in favor of the children. We do know that Angelina had concerns about the welfare of the children with Brad, apparently from drug and alcohol use and some parenting decisions, but the details of those matters were kept mostly from public view.
Fourth, put the interests of the children first. Angelina obviously had concerns about the safety of the children with Brad given drug and alcohol use, but she did not have a long term strategy to keep Brad from the children permanently, but in a reduced role (which will happen in every family that divorces). She utilized the court to see that Brad would show his fitness on certain issues and obtain counseling if necessary.
Fifth, bad behavior can impact custody. If you indulge too much in alcohol and drugs in the presence of the children, the courts will find that risky for the children and limit custodial rights and access. Can such behavior cost someone custody in Missouri? Absolutely. On the other hand, good faith attempts to halt this conduct and seek counseling will definitely go far toward keeping custodial rights.
Finally, much seems to have been made of their different parenting styles. Not surprisingly, many parents have different approaches to parenting, but that in and of itself does not create problems. Children attach differently to their parents for myriad reasons. What is most important is that the parents can communicate effectively with regard to the welfare of the children and set baseline expectations in both households so that the children will have consistency and less incentive to play one parent off the other.
Celebrity divorces sometimes seem sensational and too different from our lives to have relevance, but as you can see, they can often teach us a great deal about how to have a successful divorce.
If you have questions about divorce, contact us – we can help.