‘Brangelina’ Split Brings Concept of Shared Parenting into the Spotlight
The separation of celebrity couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie has been very much in the spotlight over the past few months.
Each new development, from the initial announcement of the split, to speculation over the existence of a prenuptial agreement, to discussions over possible custody arrangements has been reported and discussed in the media at great length.
Couple Fight over Custody of Children
News of the separation first broke in September this year when it was revealed that Angelina had filed for divorce on the grounds of ‘irreconcilable differences’. The couple have only been married since August 2014, but have been in a relationship since 2004 and have three biological children and three adopted children together.
After the split, Angelina sought to have sole custody of the couple’s six children, while Brad lodged his own legal papers seeking joint physical and legal custody, reports the Daily Mail.
It appears that an agreement has now been reached, which leaves Angelina with sole custody, while Brad will have what has been described as ‘therapeutic visits’ with his children. However, there are conflicting reports in the media over whether this arrangement is permanent, or just a short-term continuation of a temporary arrangement that was agreed between the couple in September.
In the state of California, where the couple’s legal papers have been filed, there seems to be a starting presumption that when parents separate their children should spend an equal or near equal amount of time with both parents. Whilst this may seem logical, it is a fairly recent development. Historically it was often the case that the mother would have residence of the children to avoid disrupting the traditional bread-winning and child-rearing roles. Many other jurisdictions have seen similar moves towards the more modern presumption of shared care. In England and Wales, for example, there is now a starting presumption that the involvement of both parents in the child’s life will further the child’s welfare.
The current position in Scotland is different as there is no presumption of equal contact or shared care. Instead, when making orders relating to children, the court must have the child’s welfare as their paramount consideration. Shared parenting is therefore not the starting presumption and will have to be argued in court where parties cannot agree. There are however signs that this may be subject to change, with more Sheriffs recognising the benefits to both parents and children of shared parenting.
Campaign charity Families Need Fathers Scotland published a report earlier in the year calling for family law in Scotland to be reformed to include a starting presumption of shared parenting whenever parents separate. The charity claims this would be beneficial to both the parents and children and that such a system already works well in countries such as Sweden, the Netherlands and Australia.
“We want children to have an equally significant relationship with both their mother and father and their respective extended families wherever possible,” explained National Manager of FNF Scotland, Ian Maxwell. “This means that the child will spend a considerable amount of time with each parent; that both parents will have equal weight in important decisions affecting the child and that both parents will be recognised equally by public agencies such as schools and doctors.”
The report, which was sent to the Scottish Parliament as well as a Council of Europe meeting in Strasbourg, also called for a number of other changes to family law, including a greater use of mediation in family disputes to help reduce the number that need to go to court to be resolved.
Taking the decision to end a relationship and begin divorce proceedings can be very stressful for everyone concerned, particularly where there are uncertainties in relation to children. It is important to receive the correct advice right from the start. Our experienced family lawyers can guide you through the process and help you reach agreement on the important matters to be settled, such as the division of assets and arrangements relating to children. Contact us today for expert legal advice relating to your own individual situation.