Brad Pitt's Lawyer Fires Back at Angelina Jolie Amid Custody Appeal

Brad Pitt's Lawyer Fires Back at Angelina Jolie Amid Custody Appeal

07/09/2021

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s legal battle continues.

On Friday, attorneys for both parties presented their arguments in a remote appellate court hearing. The appellate hearing comes less than two months after Pitt was granted joint custody of five of the six children the former couple shares — Pax, 17, Zahara, 16, Shiloh, 14, Vivienne, 12, and Knox, 12. Because eldest son Maddox is 19, he is considered a legal adult and not subject to the custody decision.

Jolie’s request to remove Judge John W. Ouderkirk in her divorce case against Pitt was denied last November. Court documents obtained by ET at the time showed that the court found that Ouderkirk was not disqualified from serving as a temporary judge in the case and the actress’ request had been denied.

During Friday’s hearing, Robert Olson, attorney for Jolie, argued that the private judge in the custody battle case was impartial, alleging that he was working on legal matters involving Pitt.

“Until Ms. Jolie asked, what was going on was only known to the judge, the ARC and the opposing counsel … she was shocked that this was going on,” Olson said. “Ms. Jolie did not know anything that happened between counsel for Pitt and the judge.”

Pitt’s lawyer, Theodore Boutrous, fired back, claiming Jolie knew about the potential conflict all along. “Here in a child custody case that’s been going on for so long, the children are getting older,” he argued, “and to allow a delaying tactic like this would be extremely unjust.”

“There were no surprises,” he added. “Ms. Jolie and her counsel knew about the relationship and the grounds.”

Kelly Chang Rickert, a family law attorney who watched the remote hearing, told ET that she believes Jolie may be “fighting a losing battle.”

“I think Jolie had no problem agreeing to the judge at the outset, because she thought she was going to win,” Rickert said. “As soon as she started getting bad rulings from him, that’s when she brought up the fact that he’s biased. So I think it’s just, the timing issue is a little suspect, and I think she’s going to lose this appeal.”

“If Ouderkirk had sided with Angelina and granted her sole custody, she would never be filing this appeal; she would not challenge his ruling as biased,” she continued. “The only reason she’s challenging it is because she lost. I mean, she’s struggling, she’s reaching here.”

Rickert also noted that it’s not unusual in “bitter custody cases like this one” for the parties to keep fighting until the kids are grown.

“Because when the kids are grown, they’re outside the jurisdiction of the courts,” she explained. “Right now, they’re fighting because the courts can still rule on the kids. Once they’re 18, they’re on their own. They’re adults.”

ET reported back in May that Pitt was granted joint custody of his and Jolie’s children. At the time, Judge John Ouderkirk issued a “detailed” ruling, which found that Jolie’s testimony lacked credibility in many important areas and that the previously existing custody order must be modified in the best interest of the children.

“All Brad ever wanted was to have joint custody of his children and he is relieved that the court ruled in his favor,” a source told ET at the time. “This is a huge deal given the prior arrangement with the children. Brad can’t wait to spend more time with them. He’s incredibly happy.”

Jolie, who sought divorce from Pitt in 2016, initially wanted primary custody, while Pitt requested joint custody. Peter Harvey, a lawyer for Jolie who is close to the case but not directly involved, told the Associated Press that the actress “supports joint custody,” but added that the situation is complicated and he can’t go into detail because the court proceedings are under seal.

In a separate court filing obtained by ET that same month, Jolie said that she would appeal such a decision from Judge Ouderkirk, alleging that he denied her “a fair trial, improperly excluding her evidence relevant to the children’s health, safety, and welfare, evidence critical to making her case.”

The actress also claimed in the court docs that the judge “failed to adequately consider” a section of the California courts code, which says it is detrimental to the best interest of the child if custody is awarded to a person with a history of domestic violence.

In a March court filing, Jolie claimed to have “proof” of alleged domestic violence against Pitt. The actor was previously cleared of allegations of child abuse by both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Child and Family Services back in 2016.

“Brad is anxious to get custody worked out so that the family can finally move on,” a source told ET at the time, adding that Pitt was “heartbroken” by the claim. “He just wants to spend time with his children and move in a positive direction. His priority has always been his relationship with his children.” 

Hear more in the video below.

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