If you’re not living under a rock, and if you are a loyal reader here on my site, I am sure you’ve heard about the custody battle between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Some months ago, Angelina claimed that Brad abused their child and sought full custody of all six children as a result. Temporarily, it seems that was allowed pending further investigation of Brad and likely, his relationship with the children. Now we hear that Angelina was forced to relinquish the kids and that Brad is back to regular visits. So, what changed?
This case shows a classic example of an emergency reaction by the Court to an accusation made by a parent. First, based upon Angelina’s report (and likely evidence from third parties to back up her story), the Court took the children away and barred contact with Brad pending investigation. Next, the Court had an examination done to see what happened and if having parenting time with Brad was in the best interest of the children. Last, the Court revisited the situation to determine if – and how – the initial order would change. So, you ask, how does this shake out in “real life” for people like you and me?
The basic plan here would be the same if you – or the other party – are accused of abuse in a parenting situation. If an accusation is supported by evidence, the Court will usually support a break in parenting time – or supervised parenting time – during an investigation of the situation and if need be, the parenting relationship between the parent and child. Here, the Department of Children and Families may get involved, a guardian ad litem may be appointed, or both. The idea is to assess the safety of the child(ren) and to ensure that the relationship between parent and child is safe.
The time line, however, “in real life” would be quite different. For Brad and Angelina, the time line was rather quick and Brad did not miss an enormous amount of time with his kids. Often, an investigation of this magnitude would take several months and during that time, the parent would either have no parenting time or supervised parenting time. For example, a guardian ad litem often takes approximately 5 – 6 months for his/her investigation. And of course, when supervised, parenting time is usually rather limited since either a family member, friend or professional supervisor must be present.
Post-investigation, what should you expect? That is entirely dependent on the outcome of the investigation. What does the DCF say? What did the guardian recommend? Is therapy necessary? Is safety an issue such that supervision remains necessary? Are there several possibilities about what to do next or is the plan clear cut? Each case is different, so this is the part of the case where you really need counsel to help you determine what to do, what to recommend moving forward, how to craft your arguments about the future. Truth be told, the parenting could revert back to exactly what it was before the incident. The plan could, however, change dramatically post-investigation.
Need help with your individual situation? Contact me here to talk about your case and how I can help you achieve your goals for parenting time with your children.