Speaking of Brad Pitt … and family law

A little over a week ago we published a blog piece about a great David Bowie song, Putting Out the Fire. We included a clip from Inglorious Basterds where it was used to memorable effect. Right away we posted it, something else hit us. Inglorious Basterds featured one of Brad Pitt’s best roles, Aldo Raine, the Jewish, hillbilly from Tennessee who hunts down Nazis – which he pronounces Noz -zis.

Two things hit us. First, Aldo Raine and Billy Beane (Moneyball) are scarily similar characters. Second, Brad Pitt just went through something that some of our clients have been through and it looks as if it was every bit as unpleasant for him as it is for clients.

It was the stuff of tabloid front pages for months – Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were getting divorced, Angelina was the one who filed. That news filed the airwaves, TMZ, and the covers of every magazine and tabloid, About a week after that scintillating news, a bigger story broke: Angelina filed because Pitt abused one or more of the kids during a flight on their private plane, something that escalated when it landed in Minnesota. That paired with the revelation that Jolie was seeking full custody of the children threatened to put the Presidential election on the back pages.

Details, of course were sketchy. Brad was verbally abusive, Brad hit a kid, the altercation was in the air, the altercation was on the tarmac, Brad was drunk, Brad was sober when it happened but got drunk after, people were pushed, no one was touched, Brad and Angelina were arguing and the kids were upset … and every possible combination of the above were reported. Over and over and over.

When Brad and Angelina arrived back home in Los Angeles, the Department of Children and Family Services became involved. While no one claimed responsibility for contacting them, they are duty bound to investigate allegations of abuse … they could hardly ignore allegations on every TV channel and social media feed. As most people making an allegation, however obliquely, know.

In any event the investigation became news. Meanwhile the divorce moved along. Then came the announcement that because the alleged incident happened on a plane, the FBI would have to investigate. In a few weeks the news was that the FBI had ‘expanded’ the investigation in Pitt’s actions. Through it all Brad was not allowed to see the children.

So, to summarize, Brad Pitt was dealing with a divorce, his wife was claiming full custody, he was very publicly being investigated by Children Services and the FBI for abuse. Not the optimum environment to navigate a family law issue.

After several months of this, Pitt was cleared, both investigations were dropped. A few days after that, Pitt and Jolie agreed to joint custody. In the end then, nothing happened. But, this had the potential to be so much worse.

What made this an okay outcome for Pitt is probably the fact that he kept quiet through the whole thing. No statements of outrage, and, more importantly, no counter-accusations. He didn’t feed into it, he didn’t burn bridges, he didn’t open his mouth and confirm that he has a temper. He did what we ask ALL our clients to do. Not easy inthe face of allegations.

We see these kinds of situations every day. An accusation is made – frequently for leverage. By the time it’s found to be baseless, words have been said, actions have been taken, things have been made much worse. The tragedy is that it doesn’t have to happen. As Pitt and his lawyers show.