The announcement on 20th September that Angelina Jolie had filed for divorce from Brad Pitt sent the media into a frenzy. The couple had been together for 12 years and married for 2; between them they have amassed wealth of a reported £308 million and have 6 children.
Angelina has applied for a divorce in Los Angeles as (one of the) matrimonial homes is in Hollywood. As they have properties all over the world, including a chateau in France, it is possible that one of them could have commenced divorce proceedings in another country whose divorce law would then apply. Although they are an international couple, their strongest link is to California and it is sensible that the law of that state should govern what happens to the property and the children.
Now that we know where the divorce is taking place the question is how Brangelina are going to handle the dispute. Tabloid headlines on 22nd September included how Brad is going to “battle” for his children. Other news reports are more measured with Brad saying he is “saddened” and “what matters most is the wellbeing of our kids”.
As members of Resolution (formerly the Solicitors’ Family Law Association), we always advise on non-court based dispute resolution – see www.resolution.org.uk/alternatives_to_court. Mediation, collaborative law, solicitor negotiation and arbitration (see blog www.tayloremmet.co.uk/blogs/family-arbitration-a-future-for-private-judging) are all alternatives to the traditional court route.
The advantages of non-court dispute resolution are obvious. The level of acrimony is reduced as there is communication between the parties. Legal costs are kept down as much can be achieved by the couple talking to each other with the assistance of a professional mediator or solicitor.
In cases involving children court proceedings can lead to the parties becoming entrenched, the focus being on the “battle” with the ex rather than the best interest of the children.
A quick google search shows that family mediation is well established in California and in some counties the family courts offer a mediation service. Collaborative practice was actually founded in the US. This process involves the couple each instructing their own collaboratively trained lawyer and holding a series of round table meetings with a view to reaching a settlement.
Legal costs are unlikely to be an issue for Brangelina. However, unlimited resources could actually be a poison chalice as it could encourage litigation without considering the other options.
If you are reading this Brangelina, please think about the other ways of resolving your dispute before dashing off to court.