Divorce and Custody Arrangements: Playing it Right

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Divorce happens. Bottom line. Unfortunately, the system is far from perfect due to the nature of the contractual relationship. There are many loopholes in the system, which all of us divorce attorneys are guilty of taking advantage of all too often on behalf of our clients or must defend against in order to protect our client.  The perfect example is Angela’s tactics in her ongoing custody battle with Brad. They have been at it for two years, and from experience I can only assume she is using her advantage in the custody and visitation to win a greater financial and property settlement. Angelina like many, waited for Brad to slip up so badly that she could use ONE wrong parenting move against him, with regard to his child custody and visitation rights.

Now, due to one major misstep Brad Pitt has been fighting for visitation and custody rights with their gaggle of kids for over two years.

We hear about celebrities getting divorced all the time — even the ones who seemed like a match made in heaven like Brad and Angelina. Unfortunately, even they are not immune from it all, and a battle has been brewing between Brad and Angelina that has had them locked in an incredibly contentious custody and visitation battle where it seemed that Angelina used Brad’s one BIG misstep against him and to her advantage.

Angelina only decided to file for sole custody after Brad allegedly became verbally violent and yelled at their son Maddox (15) on a private jet. Ever since their heavily publicized split Brad has been investigated under suspicion that he’s been physically and verbally abusive. Funny though, how he was a good parent prior to this incident, allowed to spend time with the children alone, travel with them, and enjoy all of the rights and obligations of being a parent. Custody and Visitation rights are most parent’s Achilles heel in divorce matters, as I am sure it is Brad’s in his. So, smart move for Angelina to not waste time and capitalize on Brad disciplining his son, which became a very public event.  However, extremely frustrating for the alleged aggressor an otherwise stellar parent.

As far as custody rights are concerned, the legal standard utilized in most states, including both New York and New Jersey, to determine custody, is “Best interest of the Child”. According to most state laws, both parents begin on equal footing, but the court is forced with the decision of who the child(ren) is going to live with, is it in the best interest of the children to live with mom or dad. That is where the war between parents starts and as in Angelina and Brad’s case, it appears it will come out to survival of the fittest, parent that is.  

Brad is now seeking joint legal and physical custody. Depending on what state you reside in, typically, joint custody refers to both parents sharing equal rights to make important decisions regarding their children’s education, medical welfare, religion, and often times extracurricular activities. Joint custody refers to legal custody, otherwise known as decision making. In many instances, people get confused and believe this means the child splits their time between the parents. However, legal custody and physical custody are two very different spheres of the divorce process. Physical custody is determined separately and refers to the parent with whom the child lives with, or in the case of a 50/50 split of time the determined home base of the child. In the interest of preserving stability on the part of the child(ren), most of the time the court will determine that one parent has physical custody and the other parent is granted visitation or parenting time with the child(ren). They determine custody (both, legal and physical) and visitation rights based upon what they determine to be in the Best Interest of the Children, which is the legal standard for such determination in both New York and New Jersey. Of course, as we often try our best to do on behalf of our clients, the parents are free to make their own agreements as to such particulars. The court will only make such determinations if the parents are unable to come to an amicable arrangement or the court believes their arrangement is not in the best interest of their child(ren).

Some states, such as New Jersey, presume the parents should have Joint Custody, meaning the parents must agree on the important decisions affecting the welfare of their children. In New Jersey, if a parent wishes to have sole legal custody and make all important decisions on behalf of the child without the other parent’s input they have to prove to the court that joint legal custody is not in the best interest of the child(ren). On the complete opposite side of the spectrum, the state of New York presumes that one parent shall have sole custody, meaning full decision-making authority and physical custody, and the other shall have parenting time with the child. In such circumstances, both parents would have to agree to a joint legal custody arrangement and assure the Court that they are able to work together and come to decisions together with regard to the welfare of their child(ren). No matter which state you live in though, the decision rests on what arrangement the court ultimately determines is in the best interest of the children, and one spouse often capitalizes on one mistake of the other parent to prove that the arrangement should be in their favor. For example, Angelina can now use Brad’s public display of disciplining against him to obtain sole physical and legal custody of the children.

In fact, these tricky tactics can control the entire process of divorce. As mentioned above, custody and visitation rights are most parent’s Achilles heel in divorce matters. Angelina has now gained preference from the court as to her parental fitness and will now use that in her favor to gain a great financial settlement, protect her own assets and end up settling the case for exactly what Brad is requesting with regards to custody and parenting time. That is just our guess though.

Brangelina’s divorce is the perfect example of how one wrong move can set you back in a divorce case. In this case, Angelina decided to take matters into her own hands and play her cards right. Whether or not the accusations against Brad are true, it remains to be seen, but either way it’s just adding fuel to the fire of just another Divorce.

While we are not taking sides, we are rooting for Brad to maintain a meaningful and substantial relationship with his children and are sure he has the best legal counsel to ensure a positive outcome in his divorce case.

If you and your ex are going through something similar do not hesitate to call Helen M. Dukhan of HD Family Law for a consultation so one mistake does not affect your parenting rights and the relationship you share with your children.

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