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The divorce between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie has become high profile in today’s news. It’s not often that a celebrity divorce earns its own nickname. In this case, the press is calling it the “Brangelina Split.”

Even though each parent is worth many millions, the main contested divorce issue is child custody of their six children.

As in many divorces, if the couple can reach a settlement outside of court, they have better chances of making their divorce more amicable. It remains to be seen how they will resolve the custody issue, but here are some benchmarks along the road of their divorce.

Divorce Filing

Angelina Jolie filed for divorce at the end of September 2016 and sought sole child custody.  Allegations of abuse emerged against Brad Pitt shortly after she filed.

Temporary Custody Agreement

In October, USA Today published an article that disclosed the temporary custody arrangement was for Angelina to have sole custody and Brad to have visitation. They worked out the agreement through the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). The agreement included terms of Brad submitting to random drug/alcohol testing and both parents undergoing separate and family counseling. Brad’s first visit with the children was to be monitored by a therapist, but that stipulation was not necessary an ongoing requirement for later visits.

Pitt Cleared of Abuse Allegations

On November 9, USA Today reported that the LA County DCFS cleared Brad Pitt after exhaustively investigating charges of Pitt’s alleged abuse against his 15 year old son. Brad Pitt subsequently has filed for joint custody of the children.

Their divorce case is being heard in California, and under state law, courts favor awarding joint custody whenever possible. Generally, parents enjoy a 50/50 parenting time arrangement so both parents can spend time with their children. Children over 14 years of age typically can state their preference during custody proceedings and the court takes their view into consideration.

Do You Need Legal Help with Divorce or Child Custody?

Attorney Chris Palermo offers compassionate legal help for individuals seeking divorce to help protect their rights.

The parent’s decision to move after divorce is not just his or her own decision. In fact, the court will decide whether you get to relocate or not based on what is in the best interests of your child.

Why Is Relocation a Court Matter?

When relocation is a considerable distance, it affects a number of things — parenting time with the children, the children’s school, extended family, friends and community involvement.

What Courts Consider When Deciding Relocation Cases

Various cases have come before the New York Appellate Court and rulings show there are no one-size-fits-all factors in deciding cases. Two cases the New York Court of Appeals decided in 1996 established the precedent that each case must be considered individually without “formulae and presumptions.”

In the case Tropea v. Tropea, the original custody court order prevented either parent from moving outside of Onondaga County without judicial approval. The mother became engaged to an architect with an established firm in Schenectady. She was expecting a child and wanted to relocate. She offered a liberal visitation schedule, providing frequent and extended contact and driving the children to and from the father’s Syracuse home. The father contested based on his involvement —coaching the children’s football and baseball teams, participation in religion classes and academic education involvement. The lower court denied relocation. The Appellate Court reversed the decision, finding the move to be in the children’s best interests and that the father would retain regular and meaningful access. The scheduled awarded the father substantial weekend, summer and vacation visitation with the children.

In the Matter of Browner v. Kenward, the Appellate Court also reversed a lower court’s decision, finding in favor of a mother moving to Pittsfield, MA where her parents were moving, which was 130 miles from the father’s Westchester County home. The court based its decision on the children’s best interests. The grandparents provided the children with significant support and would enhance the emotional well being of the child. The move would also reduce bickering between the parents.

Get Experienced Legal Help

Relocation can often be complicated. Suffolk County Divorce Lawyer Chris Palermo provides you with compassionate legal guidance and can help you make the right decisions.

While it seems as though mothers typically still have an advantage in custody cases, you never know for sure how a case will go. This was true when Bode Miller and Sara McKenna both sought primary custody of their unborn child.

Olympic bronze medal winner Bode Miller and Sara McKenna met through a high-end dating service, but their relationship only lasted three months. Afterward, McKenna discovered she was pregnant. Several months later, Miller married his current wife, volleyball player Morgan Beck. (New York Times )

Miller had initially expressed no interest in parenting the unborn child. McKenna, who is a former Marine and firefighter, decided to move from California to New York to attend Columbia University on the G.I. bill. She moved when she was seven months pregnant, and the baby was born in New York. During her pregnancy, Miller sought custody of the child in a New York Family Court. He accused her of leaving California to find a sympathetic court. The NY Family Court judge agreed, reprimanding McKenna and turning the case over for California jurisdiction. A California court awarded primary custody to Miller.

The case brought up legal issues about women’s rights and whether a pregnant woman had the legal right to move. McKenna appealed the decision, and the appellate court ruled that New York had jurisdiction, not California because the child was born in New York. The appellate court also ruled that “Putative fathers have neither the right nor the ability to restrict a pregnant woman from her constitutionally protected liberty.” The New York court returned temporary custody to McKenna, which allowed her to establish residence in New York.

Child custody battles can be some of the most heart-wrenching issues for parents. Having an effective and compassionate Long Island divorce lawyer at your side, like Christ Palermo, can help you overcome the challenges and protect your rights.

On May 29, 2015, Congress passed the Rape Survivor Custody Act. The new federal law assists women who become pregnant because of rape and decide to keep their babies. The law provides stronger protection against the rapist when he is claiming custody rights to the child.

According to Yahoo News , studies show approximately 25,000 to 32,000 U.S. pregnancies result annually from rape. An estimated one third or more of the women in these instances decide to raise the child.

The Rape Survivor Custody Act boosts funding to states that permit women to petition for parental rights termination of the rapist. Better funding encourages states to help women take a stance. The other change the law introduced is a lesser burden of evidence is required for proving a child was conceived through rape: clear and convincing evidence.

Previously, women did not have much chance of protection unless the rapist was found guilty in a criminal court. Because the burden of proof in criminal cases is guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, many rape cases lacked sufficient evidence for a conviction. Consequently, the rapist, who would either not be charged or convicted, could continue to harass the woman, using a claim for custody as a means of continued torment. Clear and convincing evidence is a lower burden of proof than guilty beyond a reasonable doubt because it only requires proving that it was substantially more likely than not that the rape occurred.

Chicago attorney, Shauna Prewitt began advocating better state laws for raped women after pursuing and enduring a two-year custody case against a man who raped her. She’s quoted as saying that she has seen custody cases where the rapist has told the woman that if she drops the criminal case against him, he’ll drop the custody case or agree not to pursue parental rights.

At this time, 36 states address the child custody rape issue. However, many require a criminal conviction of the rapist. Although New York does not require rape conviction, it also has no provision to terminate parental rights of a rapist. Your attorney must convince the court that the father seeking parental rights is harmful to the child.

If you have concerns about custody, discuss them with Attorney Chris Palermo. He is committed to protecting your rights and providing you with compassionate and effective legal counsel.

Parental alienation syndrome is a psychological term that means one parent is turning the children against the other parent, usually due to a divorce or child custody dispute. The syndrome manifests as the child’s denigration of the other parent, but there is no real justification for it. It results from the other parent’s indoctrination of the child and the child’s own contribution to vilifying the targeted parent.

On March 25, 2015, the New York appellate court ruled in the appeal of Halioris v. Haloris , where the father sought sole custody based on the mother’s parental alienation. The mother had appealed the lower court’s decision and requested that the appellate court review the case.

In rendering its decision, the appeals court upheld the lower court’s decision to grant the father sole custody. The court referenced several other cases, quoting previous findings that influenced the court’s decision. This statement in particular was pivotal in the case:

‘Parental alienation of a child from the other parent is “an act so inconsistent with the best interests of the children as to, per se, raise a strong probability that the [offending parent] is unfit to act as custodial parent.” ‘

Clearly, divorce is an emotional matter for many parents, and they can lose a proper perspective when fighting for custody of their children. Even so, there are important legal guidelines to keep in mind. Parental alienation is one of them, and no matter how justified a parental may feel in alienating the child from the other parent, this type of behavior often backfires.
If you have questions about divorce or child custody issues, Chris Palermo is glad to provide you with answers and legal advice. As a Long Island divorce lawyer he is committed to protecting your rights and helping you achieve the best outcome possible.