Angelina Jolie threatens Brad Pitt over child support

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It’s nothing unusual for divorced parents to argue over the details of their breakup, even when both parents are millionaires. I’ve handled divorces for two decades, and there’s literally no ceiling on exes’ propensity to bicker. There are, however, a few words in the recently reported report Brangeline legal drama that rocks my Spidey sense.

1. “Informal”.

According to Angelina Joliethe couple had “informal arrangements around the payment of children’s expenses” and brad pitt did not make its weight. It’s weird. These people have a lot of money, a lot of lawyers and a lot of children; an “informal” arrangement makes no sense, especially for people with complex finances and multiple businesses.

Typically, in a divorce, the couple’s respective attorneys spend their time and installments working out the details of property division, spousal support (if applicable), and child support. Agreements or court rulings on these matters can take years to finalize – but while awaiting a divorce involving significant assets, interim child support is usually determined relatively early in the process. For Brad and Angie, managing what are probably heavy expenses for six kids in a loose, ad hoc way is just plain stupid.

No lawyer in the world – either side – would advise a wealthy client to continue supporting six children without a written agreement on the details. My guess? Someone in this equation had unrealistic expectations. Perhaps part of it expected the separation to not be permanent, or was convinced that she would be able to handle the financial arrangements for her children without even an ounce of friction. Either that or they both have such unlimited income that the specifics of child support seemed to be NBD. Anyway, it’s time to come back to reality now.

2. “Duty”.

In court documents, Jolie allegedly alleged through an attorney, “[Pitt] has an obligation to pay alimony.

Let’s break this down a bit. Pitt might have a “duty” to pay child support – but that statement sounds a lot simpler than it actually is. Of course, parents have a legal obligation to support their children; in California (as everywhere else in this country), the combined income of the parents and the size of the family will dictate the amount of assistance children are entitled to. Then, this total amount is allocated to each parent in the proportionate measure deemed appropriate. Considerations such as each parent’s earning potential, custody and parenting time arrangements all go into determining if and how much child support obligations will be imposed on either parent. Most of the time, these calculations are negotiated between lawyers and then concretized in a written agreement. The obligation arises from the parent company to the child — not necessarily to the other parent.

Like all parents, Brad Pitt definitely has a duty to Support their children. It is not the same as a duty to have to pay alimony at Angelina Jolie. Legally speaking, in the absence of a specific court order or agreement for such child support payments, Pitt may not have a duty of the kind that Jolie alleges with such confidence.

3. “Significant.”

Another part of Jolie’s filing read: “At present, [Pitt] has not paid any significant child support since the separation.

This one made me laugh. Normally, allegations against deadbeat dads have fewer adjectives. If Pitt hadn’t paid whatever to support her children, the court docs would have said. Throwing out the word “meaningful” makes me feel like it’s definitely paid off Something, but that Jolie wants more. Maybe she’s right – maybe he didn’t pay enough. But since there is apparently no formal agreement, it is a bit difficult to accuse him of having failed in his obligations.

My bet is on a judge having a court day with Jolie’s closing arguments. I’d love to be there when someone says, “Ms. Jolie, it only matters whether or not payments have been made, not whether those have been made.” meant nothing for you. I also guess the word “meaningful” was thrown in there to cover the ass. If Jolie had alleged that Pitt was a total immodest, and the statement was not factually accurate, she could expose herself to liability for defamation. Adding the qualifier makes the claim more subjective – and therefore less likely to be defamatory.

4. “Intend”.

Jolie told the court that she “intends to file an RFO for the establishment of a retroactive child support order.”

It’s a threat, pure and simple. Jolie warns that if Pitt doesn’t quickly find a way to satisfy his wallet, she will go to court. Apparently, the couple’s “informal arrangement” over child support might have felt good at first, but now Jolie plans to shift gears completely. request a retroactive child support order means she is seriously rethinking the relaxed way she approached this divorce. Such a move smacks of hurt feelings. It’s one thing to seek child support in the future – but it sounds like Jolie is saying, “I should never have trusted you to do the right thing, and now I want restitution. ” Ouch.

[Image via Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for WSJ. Magazine 2015 Innovator Awards]

This is an opinion piece. The opinions expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author.

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