Visitation, Child Support and Their Never-Ending Divorce: Why Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie Can't Stop Fighting

Yes, Hollywood's former golden couple is still legally wed two years after their surprise split and, no, they aren't any closer to resolving their parenting differences.

By Sarah Grossbart Sep 19, 2018 10:00 AMTags
Brad Pitt, Angelina JolieGetty Images

Two years. Twenty-four months. A full 730 days. 

That's how much time has elapsed since Angelina Jolie hastily filed to end her brief marriage to longtime love Brad Pitt. Since that day back in 2016, the one constant coming from both camps was about how eager they were to resolve their divorce, how anxious they were to reach a settlement. And yet here we are a full 24 months later—just one month less than the length of their actual marriage—and there's little more to show for their efforts and court appearances than a handful of temporary agreements and the assertion that they remain miles apart on the issue of how to raise their six kids. 

"They are kind of at an impasse at this point," an insider recently admitted to E! News, "because the focus has been on custody, nothing else has been hashed out."

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The thrust of their disagreement is straightforward: Each would prefer more time with Maddox, 17, Pax, 14, Zahara, 13, Shiloh, 12, and 10-year-old twins Knox and Vivienne. While Pitt has been steadily gaining visitation with their brood since this summer, when a judge ruled it was "harmful" for the kids not to have a relationship with their father, he'd prefer an agreement that afforded him more than four-hour chunks here and there. Jolie, meanwhile, a source tells ET, "feels the best scenario for the kids is for her to have sole custody."

So that leaves their lawyers (Jolie recently swapped high-powered divorce attorney Laura Wasser for San Francisco-based Samantha Bley DeJea) the gargantuan task of meeting up in resolution centers to iron out a custody plan that will at least semi-satisfy both sides. And, as of late, reports an insider, neither half is feeling appeased: "They do not agree at all, and it's very time consuming." 

For now, they'll rely on the court-ordered arrangement they reached this summer that sets out the hours they each have with the children. And while that doesn't seem like much to speak of for two years of work, when you consider where they started—with nasty accusations, rumors of abuse and a full-blown FBI investigation—well, it's kind of a start. 

UN Photo/Kim Haughton

The months following Jolie's filing were, in a word, awful for Pitt as he waited for both the FBI and the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services to clear him of wrong doing during the Great Plane Incident of 2016 that allegedly involved an argument between him and Maddox. As Pitt would later put it to GQ Style, "I was really on my back and chained to the system." 

But soon, with Pitt fully cleared, the former spouses were announcing the terms of a temporary agreement that left the kids in Jolie's care while granting Pitt "therapeutic visitations." And despite a shot across the bow from Jolie in early 2017, when her lawyer insinuated Pitt wanted to keep divorce proceedings closed because he's "terrified the public will learn the truth," they seemed to be well on their way to friendly exes status. Every so often, a week, a nanny would ferry the kids the mile or so from Jolie's newly purchased $25 million Beaux Arts style estate (bought with an $8 million loan from her ex) to the former family home Pitt still lived in. And though a source said Pitt would prefer to spend more time with them, it was something. 

Courtesy of Lucian Capellaro/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures International

Last summer saw the couple trading origin stories in the press with Jolie remaining fairly evasive in her chat with Vanity Fair, saying simply "things got bad," and Pitt choosing to go full mea culpa. 

He'd been boozing too much, he admitted in GQ Style, could, as he colorfully stated, "drink a Russian under the table with his own vodka. I was a professional. I was good." His proclivities, combined with what he called a tendency to get preoccupied with his work, meant he wasn't being the most present father he could be. 

"Kids are so delicate. They absorb everything," he explained to the outlet. "They need to have their hand held and things explained. They need to be listened to. When I get in that busy work mode, I'm not hearing. I want to be better at that."

All of which might account for Jolie's decision to initially request sole custody. 

Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for FIJI Water

But they'd turned a corner, Pitt shared, thanks in part to his adherence to cranberry juice and fizzy water, a devotion to therapy and a willingness to fly wherever need be to visit with the kids. And now he and the woman he'd once turned his life inside out for were ready to figure this whole thing out together, or, at the very least, through their team of exceptionally well-trained attorneys. 

"We've been able to work together to sort this out. We're both doing our best," he noted to the mag. "I heard one lawyer say, 'No one wins in court—it's just a matter of who gets hurt worse.' And it seems to be true, you spend a year just focused on building a case to prove your point and why you're right and why they're wrong, and it's just an investment in vitriolic hatred. I just refuse. And fortunately my partner in this agrees. It's just very, very jarring for the kids, to suddenly have their family ripped apart."

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Those were the words of a man who never imagined they'd spend the next year-plus of their lives locked in litigation. And yet this past June, some 13 months after his bombshell interview landed, he found himself back in court, once again facing off with his ex. 

You see, the previous year Pitt had quietly tagged along when Jolie and the kids went to Cambodia for her First They Killed My Father press tour, making the lengthy trip so he would be afforded more visits with his clan. So perhaps that's why the actress assumed it'd be fine to tote the whole crew to London this past summer so she could shoot her Maleficent sequel. 

But Pitt, committed to staying put in L.A. where he was filming Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, bristled at her plan to whisk the kids 5,000 miles away, where he'd have little chance of seeing them for visits. "He's not OK with his kids being away for months," a source told E! News of his decision to take his frustrations to court. "He feels that Los Angeles is their home base and this is where it is best for them to be." 

Jun Sato/WireImage

Understanding his argument, the judge agreed, handing Pitt what felt like his first victory in a good long while. Jolie, reportedly, was a little irked—with a source telling E! News she was feeling "exasperated" by the ongoing custody issues—but knew she had no choice to follow along with the terms. So with the help of private jets, the couple worked out the travel plans and Pitt set about the business of being Dad. 

"It's a big step," said a source, "and he hopes to continue getting back on track with each of the kids."

Because as much as it pained him to admit, the sporadic visitation had affected his once-tight bond with his children. "There is so much rebuilding that needs to take place," a source reveals to E! News. "He has had very little time with them over the last two years and it's very sad. He hasn't had the freedom to do with them what he wants to do." 

Watch: Will Angelina Jolie Work With More of Her Kids on Screen?

Still, he's remained hopeful he could get back to being the hands-on dad who once had a skatepark built into their L.A. compound. Says the source, "Brad has been told that he needs to follow his lawyer's advice and protocol in order to achieve his goal, which is having joint custody." 

And if that means he had to take a few knocks in the meantime, so be it.

Because come August, Jolie came out swinging, accusing Pitt of not paying any "meaningful" child support. Pitt's attorney Lance Spiegel didn't miss a beat, filing his own four-page brief, detailing the actor's previous $8 million home loan and the additional $1.3 million he paid to help with the exorbitant cost of caring for an outsized Hollywood brood and the bodyguards, chauffeurs, private jets and language tutors that come with them. Jolie's request was "unnecessary," Spiegel continued, "omits material information and is a thinly-veiled effort to manipulate media coverage."

Well, okay then.  


Jolie's response was no less demure, with her rep releasing a statement to E! News calling her filing "both legally appropriate and factually accurate," and Pitt's response "a blatant attempt to obfuscate the truth and distract from the fact that he has not fully met his legal obligations to support the children." 

After the plane incident, her rep continued, "Angelina and the children needed to move from the family home, which Brad chose to keep, including all of its contents. Brad was asked to assist in the expense of a new home for Angelina and the children, but instead he loaned Angelina money, for which he is charging her interest on a payment plan. Angelina will of course honor that loan. A loan is not, however, child support and to represent it as such is misleading and inaccurate."

So just like that, they're at odds once again. 

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's Kids Through the Years

In the weeks since that dust-up, no forward progress has been reported. Even with Pitt's request to split up the case and put divorce proceedings to bed before resuming the arduous task of custody—one made all the more difficult, because, as a source tells People the exes have differing approaches to parenting—neither side predicts an end to the battle will come soon. 

"Brad and Angelina are not even close to settling their divorce," insists one source. "There will be no settlement or resolution anytime soon."


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