Brad Pitt Wins Joint Custody of Children, Angelina Jolie Criticizes Judge’s Decision

Brad Pitt has been tentatively awarded joint custody of his children with Angelina Jolie after a five-year legal battle, People reports.

A source speaking to People revealed the sealed decision from earlier this spring, in which Judge John Ouderkirk, a private judge hired by Pitt and Jolie to maintain their privacy, granted Pitt joint custody over their five minor children: Pax, 17, Zahara, 16, Shiloh, 14, and twins Knox and Vivienne, 12. Eldest son Maddox, 19, stopped being part of the custody case after reaching the age of majority.

Jolie, 46, was seeking primary physical custody of the children (which means the children would have lived with her more than half of the time), while Pitt, 57, was seeking joint custody.

“A few weeks ago, the judge’s decision came down after a months long trial,” a source close to Pitt told People. “Brad has been awarded significantly more time with the kids. He had had very limited time before.”

On Monday, Jolie filed a complaint to California’s Second District Court of Appeal over the ruling, criticizing the judge’s refusal to allow the children to testify. If Ouderkirk’s tentative court decision is made final, Jolie says she will appeal it in the filing.

“Judge Ouderkirk denied Ms. Jolie a fair trial, improperly excluding her evidence relevant to the children’s health, safety, and welfare, evidence critical to making her case,” the filing states (via Associated Press). Although the public filing does not state what evidence was allegedly excluded, it claims the judge “refused to hear the minor teenagers’ input as to their experiences, needs, or wishes as to their custody fate” and cites a California code saying children age 14 and over should be allowed to testify if they want to.

Jolie also argues the judge “has failed to adequately consider” a section of the California courts code that says it is detrimental to the best interest of the child if custody is awarded to a person with a history of domestic violence. Jolie initiated the divorce in 2016 days after accusing Pitt of being abusive toward then-15-year-old son Maddox on a private flight from France to Los Angeles. However, no charges were filed against Pitt after investigations by child welfare officials and the FBI.

Despite the fact that Jolie is critical of the judge’s decision, “Joint custody is not the issue that Angelina objects to,” a source close to Jolie speaking to People says. “There were other issues of concern, but the court proceedings are closed and sealed.”

In response to Jolie’s filing, Pitt’s lawyers said, “Ouderkirk has conducted an extensive proceeding over the past six months in a thorough, fair manner and reached a tentative ruling and order after hearing from experts and percipient witnesses.”

This is not the first time Jolie has criticized Ouderkirk. Last November, Jolie tried to disqualify Ouderkirk from her and Pitt’s divorce case, claiming he failed to disclose his ongoing professional relationship with Pitt’s lawyers. But the Superior Court of California in Orange County ruled that Ouderkirk properly disclosed his involvement with Pitt’s law firm before being assigned to the case.

Ouderkirk has known Pitt and Jolie for years, and presided over their 2014 wedding at their estate in France, Château Miraval.

Despite the turmoil of their legal battles, Jolie bought a $25 million mansion in Los Angeles five minutes away from Pitt in order for the children to be close to him, she revealed in an interview with British Vogue in February.

While Jolie and Pitt’s divorce proceedings are ongoing, they were declared legally single in April 2019.