From hookup to breakup: A complete chronicle of Brangelina’s divorce and custody battle

From hookup to breakup: A complete chronicle of Brangelina’s divorce and custody battle

As much as we love to idolize A-list celebrities, every now and then, we see them as mere mortals. Sometimes, we are so wrapped up in our envy of them that we take twisted pleasure in seeing them struggle. If this is not the case, perhaps our bias toward attractive people make us feel sorry for them instead. However we feel about them, they still have more wealth than us regular folk and have armies of lawyers who’ll fight on their behalf, so their journey will be quite different from the hoi polloi, though there will also be a few similarities along the way.

For instance, just take a look at the once-white-hot couple of the millennium: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Popularly dubbed “Brangelina,” their union was the stuff of Hollywood dreams. Both incredibly beautiful, talented, rich, and charismatic, Brad and Angelina seemed set to wrap the world around their fingers. But alas, what began with fiery controversy ended in flames as well. Here’s a brief history of one of Hollywood’s most golden ex-couples.


An affair to remember (2003–2005)

Before their fateful filming of Mr. & Mrs. Smith from 2003 to 2004, Jolie had recently filed for divorce from Billy Bob Thornton, while Pitt was married to Friends actress Jennifer Aniston. Whether or not the co-stars’ chemistry was due to their acting ability or the natural extension of an offscreen romance was subject to much speculation, and Aniston and Pitt divorced in 2005.

According to Aniston in a Vanity Fair interview, “(w)e (Aniston and Pitt) exited this relationship as beautifully as we entered it.” However, once pictures of Pitt and Jolie frolicking on a beach in Kenya with her adopted son Maddox started circulating just a month after the divorce, Jennifer claimed that “(t)he world was shocked, and I was shocked.”

Despite the ex-spouses having initially claimed that no one was to blame for their separation, vicious rumors about Aniston denying Pitt children began to emerge — and it hurt Jennifer that Brad did not do much to negate the allegations. He began to look like a father figure to Jolie’s adopted son Maddox and was forming a family with UN goodwill ambassador Angelina, and people began blaming Jennifer for her ex-husband’s departure. In a twist of fate, Jolie wasn’t reviled as “the other woman” — Aniston was.

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A decade of unwed bliss (2005–2014)

A growing family of six children

The media went crazy over the newest Hollywood power couple, starting off with an extensive W Magazine spread titled, “Domestic Bliss,” in July 2005. The feature showcased photos of Brad and Angelina as a happy couple. Later that month, Jolie flew to Ethiopia to adopt six-month-old Zahara, with Pitt accompanying her on that trip.

In January 2006, just three months after Pitt’s divorce from Aniston was finalized, Jolie confirmed that she was pregnant with Pitt’s first child, Shiloh. She was born in May 2006 in Namibia and made her debut on the cover of People Magazine a month later. As for Angelina’s other children, Maddox and Zahara, Brad legally adopted them and had their last names changed to Jolie-Pitt. By the end of the year, Brangelina made their relationship red-carpet official when they attended the NYC premiere of Jolie’s The Good Shepherd together.

They added another member to the family in March 2007 when they both flew to Vietnam to adopt three-year-old Pax. But since Vietnamese law prohibited unmarried couples to adopt children, Jolie filed the adoption papers as a single individual. Pitt legally adopted Pax a year later.

In February 2008, Brangelina grabbed the headlines once more when they arrived at the Independent Spirit Awards bearing news — Angelina was pregnant again! During the Cannes Film Festival in May, Jolie revealed that she was pregnant with twins. "We weren't expecting twins," she told Entertainment Weekly. "So it did shock us." In July, she gave birth to Knox and Vivienne in France, and they appeared on the cover of People Magazine a month later. "It is chaos, but we are managing it and having a wonderful time," Jolie told the magazine about life as a family of eight.

Despite all the positive media exposure, the power couple wasn’t spared from nasty rumors. In December 2009, Ian Halperin’s book Brangelina: The Untold Story of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie was released and made many shocking accusations such as Brad cheated on Angelina. In February 2010, News of the World even reported that the couple had split.

But come November 2010, all that gossip turned into marriage rumors after Johnny Depp referred to Pitt as Jolie’s husband in a Vanity Fair article.

Finally tying the knot

Confirmation of the couple’s engagement only happened in April 2012, six years after their first child. "Yes, it's confirmed. It is a promise for the future and their kids are very happy. There's no date set at this time," said Pitt’s manager to People. During this time, Angelina began wearing a $1 million engagement ring from Brad.

In one of their earlier interviews, Pitt said they didn’t want to tie the knot until marriage was legal for everyone. But in August 2014, Brangelina secretly got married in Chateau Miraval in France and all six children were involved in the ceremony. Maddox and Pax walked their mom down the aisle, Zahara and Vivienne were flower girls, and Shiloh and Knox were ring bearers. Jolie wore an Atelier Versace gown and a veil embroidered with designs based on her kids' drawings.

Instead of the traditional honeymoon, Brad and Angelina used the time to film a relationship drama, By the Sea, which was their first movie together since Mr. & Mrs. Smith.

Through sickness and in health

Jolie and Pitt went through a lot of health scares together. In May 2013, Angelina revealed in her New York Times op-ed that she had gone through a preventative double mastectomy. She wrote, "I am fortunate to have a partner, Brad Pitt, who is so loving and supportive… Brad was at the Pink Lotus Breast Center, where I was treated, for every minute of the surgeries. We managed to find moments to laugh together. We knew this was the right thing to do for our family and that it would bring us closer. And it has."

In her second New York Times op-ed in March 2015, Jolie wrote about having her ovaries and Fallopian tubes removed as a preventative measure after an annual blood test showed markers that could be “a sign of early cancer.” “I called my husband in France, who was on a plane within hours," she wrote.

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Brangelina no more (2016)

July 2016 was one of the last few times when Pitt and Jolie were seen together in public. Prior to this, they had been apart for months while working on various projects.

On the fateful day of September 19, 2016, Angelina filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences. She then petitioned for physical custody of their six children. The couple’s lawyer, Robert Offer, released a statement: "This decision was made for the health of the family. She will not be commenting, and asks that the family be given its privacy at this time." Pitt later broke his silence and told People that his main focus was on the “well-being of our kids.”

A source close to the couple told the magazine, “The divorce is a complete shock. They have definitely spent more time apart this year, but it’s still a shock. They just celebrated their wedding anniversary together.”

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The ugly battle for Brangelina’s beautiful brood of six
(2016–2019)

Even couples who are separating amicably may not agree on all counts when working through a child custody arrangement. For Brad and Angelina, who have six kids, the dispute turned into a legal quagmire. Here’s a quick timeline of their child custody battle.

September 2016: Flying on a private jet from Nice, France to Los Angeles, Brad was said to have been drinking heavily and got into a confrontation with their eldest child, Maddox. Once they landed in LA, an upset Angelina hired extra cars and checked in at a hotel with the kids to ferry them away from their boozy daddy. This incident supposedly sealed the deal for Angie to file for divorce.

November 2016: Brad was cleared of child abuse allegations and filed for joint physical and legal custody of the sixsome. An agreement was reached: Mrs. Smith will retain physical custody of their six children while Mr. Smith will retain shared legal custody and will have visitation rights.

June 2018: The Superior Court of Los Angeles County imposed the number of hours the children must spend with each parent. Angelina allegedly tried to manipulate the visitation terms by having the kids fly to London where she was shooting Maleficent 2, in a thinly veiled attempt to spite Brad. She eventually capitulated to the visiting terms because if she hadn’t, she could have lost full custody of the kids.

August 2018: August 2018: Angelina insisted Brad hasn’t paid “meaningful” child support payments since their separation and attempted to seek retroactive child support. Brad’s team disagreed with her claims. Angelina’s team responded by saying she just wanted closure to the marriage, so that they could both move on. And so that we can all move on.

September 2019: In a controversial video, Maddox was accosted by paparazzi at Yonsei University in South Korea where he’s currently studying. In the video, Maddox seemed undaunted by the pap-attack and calmly answered the interviewer’s questions about his relationship with Brad. This led many to believe that this was Angelina’s handiwork to make dad look bad.

In Washington, courts use the children’s best interests standard to make decisions about custody and visitation. Regular couples typically work through custody terms in a way that ensures kids keep a healthy relationship with both parents. Brangelina’s case shows how unreasonable expectations, manipulation, and a lot of clout can turn an already bitter child custody battle into World War Z.

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Things they did right (and things they did wrong)

We don’t regret going down the rabbit hole of Brangelina-related news since their divorce. During this tumultuous period for the ex-couple, we found ourselves parsing their moves, identifying the things they did right and wrong. For “research.”

RIGHT: Keeping things private

When Brad and Angelina untied the knot, both of their camps ensured they got as much privacy as they were likely to get given their massive popularity. Still, publications ranging from the New York Times to Page Six to Perez Hilton’s blog managed to report a surprising amount of detail regarding their split and custody battle. Despite that, they both managed not to make things worse by carelessly Tweeting or making a bigger spectacle of their divorce, which is no mean feat.

WRONG: Marrying under pressure

There are rumors that Angelina felt forced into marrying Brad. Before Brad, she was had two wasbands: her Hackers co-star Jonny Lee Miller and Pushing Tin co-star Billy Bob Thornton. Second and third marriages have a higher risk of ending up in divorce, so we weren’t surprised by this piece of gossip. Although it probably doesn’t take much to say “yes” to a “Sexiest Man Alive” inductee.

Also very wrong: not getting a prenup, especially if you have hundreds of millions in the bank and own multiple properties and assets scattered all over the world.

RIGHT: Crafting carefully worded statements

There was no way that the media and fans were going to leave them alone during (and maybe even after) the divorce. But thanks to carefully worded statements, powerful publicists, and smart lawyers, they got by just fine. Should you ever feel like making a statement about your divorce, two things will likely pay off: a clear head and a carefully worded statement to the public (or in the case of normal people, their Facebook friends).

WRONG: Using the children as a weapon

There were arguably two instances of Angelina attempting to weaponize the kids: when she tried to make them spend months with her in London, and when she allegedly used Maddox to answer questions during a supposedly staged paparazzi ambush.

She also sought full physical custody of all six kids to protect them from Brad’s alleged abusive behavior. Again, no one will ever know if Brad truly is an abusive dad, but if Angie had been using the kids to get revenge, it won’t go well for her or the kids. Besides that, making your ex look bad by using your kids will only make you look bad. The marriage may be over but you will have to collaborate with your ex long after you’ve signed on the dotted line.

RIGHT: Hiring powerful attorneys

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie may be one of the most attractive couples who ever lived, but many have proclaimed their split as one of the ugliest in Hollywood history. That said, it’s quite evident that both parties’ family law attorneys are working to reach a settlement that will be beneficial to both. They’re one of the most popular couples to have consciously uncoupled, and there’s no way their attorneys will let their case go to court.

We are all still awaiting the outcome of the once-iconic couple’s divorce. Rest assured that should it be finalized, we’ll be watching. Not that that’s all we do in our Renton law offices. Washington family law attorneys Buckingham, LaGrandeur, & Williams also handle dissolutions of marriage for couples who, like Brangelina, no longer wish to be a uni-named couple. Call us.

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