- The never-ending Brangelina saga continues with Jolie successfully getting their private judge, John Ouderkirk, fired due to an ‘ethical breach’
- But as their children Maddox, Pax, Zahara, Shiloh, Vivienne and Knox get older – Maddox is already 19 – what will the Hollywood star exes do next?
When a judge granted Brad Pitt joint custody with Angelina Jolie over their expansive brood in May, we thought the war was over and the dust would quietly settle. But alas, much like many of her famous movie characters, Jolie is a fighter. So much so, that when she didn’t get her way, she managed to get the entire verdict overturned!
Here’s the latest in the never-ending saga of Game of Brangelina.
Ange got the judge fired!
The long and winding divorce was thrown into further delay last week after a California appeal court handed Jolie a major victory by disqualifying the private judge the couple used to handle the split and their contentious custody dispute.
The Second District Court of Appeal agreed with Jolie that Judge John Ouderkirk didn’t sufficiently disclose in a timely manner business relationships with Pitt’s lawyers, thus raising potential questions about his impartiality.
“Judge Ouderkirk’s ethical breach, considered together with the information disclosed concerning his recent professional relationships with Pitt’s counsel, might cause an objective person, aware of all the facts, reasonably to entertain a doubt as to the judge’s ability to be impartial. Disqualification is required,” the court ruled.
The entire battle so far might’ve been for nothing
The decision means that the custody fight over the couple’s five minor children, which was nearing an end, could be starting over with a new judge. The couple have six children but the eldest, Maddox, is 19.
The judge already ruled the pair divorced, but separated the child custody issues. The new ruling can be appealed to the state Supreme Court but Pitt would have to be granted permission, which isn’t guaranteed.
What will Pitt do next?
Pitt’s lawyer, Ted Boutrous, said Friday, July 23, the attempt at disqualification was a stalling tactic by Jolie to keep Ouderkirk’s recent tentative custody decision, which is favourable to Pitt, from going into effect.
What happens next likely depends on Pitt, according to San Francisco Bay Area divorce lawyer Brent Kaspar. The two sides either have to agree on a new private judge to hear the custody matter, or Pitt’s lawyers will have to take his case to a public judge in family court.
“They pick another private judge and they go back to square one – it’s a reset back to what custody was before [Ouderkirk’s] order,” Kaspar revealed. If Jolie declines to agree to a new judge, “Pitt’s recourse is to go to a family law court judge and file a motion to modify custody.”
Either way, a final resolution is further delayed, thus possibly allowing at least some of the older kids to age out.
Will a new judge make any difference even?
Even with a new judge, public or private, it’s not a done deal that Jolie will prevail in her quest to block joint custody, says Los Angeles family law lawyer Christopher Melcher.
“There’s no guarantee she’ll get a different outcome from a new judge,” Melcher said, adding that Jolie would have to offer specific evidence that joint custody would not be in the best interests of the kids, which is the standard in custody cases. “So far we have not heard of anything negative about Pitt’s parenting in the last five years.”
Like many celebrity couples, Pitt and Jolie opted to hire their own judge to increase their privacy in the divorce proceedings, which began more than four years ago. Ouderkirk was the judge both picked to marry them in 2014.
hat went wrong with the judge anyway?
Trouble started when Ouderkirk declined to disqualify himself when Jolie asked him to in a filing in August. A lower court judge ruled that Jolie’s request for disqualification came too late. Jolie’s lawyers then appealed.
The July 9 oral arguments in front of the appeal court focused on whether Ouderkirk had followed ethical rules strictly enough by revealing new business dealings in a timely manner. Private judges in California are usually retired superior court judges who often have professional links to lawyers in the county.
Is Angelina playing her cards strategically?
Pitt’s lawyer, Boutrous, insisted that Jolie’s objection to the judge amounted to “game-playing”. He described Jolie as “a sophisticated person with sophisticated lawyers”, who had known all along about matters requiring disclosure by Ouderkirk, but did not raise objections until she began losing in his court.
“If you’re going to play the role of a paid private judge you have to play by the rules and the rules are very clear, they require full transparency,” Jolie’s lawyer Olson said at the hearing. “Matters that should have been disclosed were not disclosed … If rules have no consequences, they are empty.”
The panel questioned whether such private judges should be allowed in California at all, but their ruling applies only to Ouderkirk.
“The perception of bias [in the courts] is the real concern here,” Kaspar said. “The judicial system doesn’t work if the public doesn’t trust the fact-finders, and this applies to both public and private judges. The appellate court wants to protect the public’s view of all judges by ensuring they are making these crucial disclosures.”
A representative for Pitt issued a statement saying the ruling was based on a procedural issue but the facts of the case have not changed.
“There is an extraordinary amount of factual evidence, which led the judge and the many experts who testified to reach their clear conclusion about what is in the children’s best interests,” the statement read. “We will continue to do what’s necessary legally based on the detailed findings of what’s best for the children.”
Representatives for Jolie have not made any statements regarding the matter.
Both Brad and Ange have known the judge for many years
Judge Ouderkirk married the pair in 2014, and also declared them divorced in April 2019, after their lawyers asked for a judgment that allowed a married couple to be declared single while other issues remained, including finances and child custody.
In May, Jolie and her lawyers started their beef with Ouderkirk when they criticised him for not allowing the couple’s children to testify in the custody proceedings.
The actress also said the judge “has 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.
Her filing did not give details about what it was referring to, but her lawyers submitted a document under seal in March that purportedly offers additional information.
In November 2016, after an anonymous complaint was filed with the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, the agency decided that Pitt did not commit child abuse during a family dispute on a private plane as they travelled back from France to the US in September.