Why Latest Twist in Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's Divorce Battle Is So Unusual
In court filings this week, they tangled over child support — while also appearing to agree on starting a process that would let them dissolve their marriage while continuing to work out the details of their divorce settlement and custody of their six children. In the documents, Jolie’s lawyers alleged that Pitt had not been paying “meaningful” child support since their 2016 separation, while Pitt’s team fired back that the actor has contributed $1.3 million to support Jolie and the kids, as well as an $8 million loan to help her buy her current home.
Certified family law specialist Steve Mindel, who’s not involved with the case, tells PEOPLE Jolie’s filing is “unusual” because it would require her to make her finances public if she is planning to request child support through the court system. Mindel says “people of such public fame” typically handle the matter in private arbitration to keep details of their lives under wraps.
If Jolie wants to follow through with the request, Mindel says the next step for her would be to file an RFO — request for orders. The request would start a child support process in which Jolie and Pitt would need to prove to the court why they needed support. In her filing, Jolie’s lawyers indicated that the actress will file an RFO.
Next, Jolie and Pitt would need to make the case for what their children’s “reasonable needs” are, which gets complicated because both parents are “extraordinary earners,” explains divorce lawyer and former therapist David Glass, who’s also not involved with their divorce.
“That can be a very arduous process,” says Glass. “They need to explain all the extraordinary expenses these kids have. They travel back and forth from L.A. to London, on private planes, they don’t go to typical schools, they have to have private tutors because they’re constantly traveling, that’s an expensive thing. Those are high numbers, but the court will only go so high on what the reasonable needs are.”
WATCH: Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt Reach Agreement to Handle Divorce Privately: We’re ‘Committed to Act as a United Front’
The ex-couple’s other major legal move is a request to “bifurcate” the issue of marital status, which would allow them to finalize the divorce and go back to being single before they’ve settled their financial and custody issue. A spokesperson for Jolie told PEOPLE her filing was intended “to provide closure to the marriage in a way that clears a path toward the next stage of their lives and allows her and Brad to recommit as devoted co-parents to their children.”
In Pitt’s filing the following day, his lawyers indicated that he had first been the one to tell Jolie of his intent to request a bifurcation, yet her lawyers then essentially jumped ahead of him and filed before Pitt could do so.
There are several reasons couples decide to go this route. One factor, says Mindel, might be that they are ready to date again and would prefer to be single. Another could be “all kinds of business issues,” he says.
“When you’re married, you’re still filing your taxes as ‘married.’ As a result of that, they’ll bifurcate the marital status so they can file as ‘single’ again,” Mindel explains.
The former couple met in 2003 when they costarred in Mr. and Mrs. Smith. They finally married in 2014 but announced their separation in 2016 citing irreconcilable differences. Jolie, 43, and Pitt, 54, have six children together: Maddox, 16, Pax, 14, Zahara, 13, Shiloh, 12, and 10-year-old twins Knox and Vivienne.