We discuss Cohabitation / Marriage / Divorce, the benefits of Prenuptial Agreements and the wrangling and rumours surrounding the Brad and Angelina divorce.
The #Brangelexit shock has already yielded a number of salacious theories about the reasons behind their separation. From extra marital liaisons, substance abuse and allegations of bad parenting, to the FBI now stating that it is considering launching an investigation into an alleged incident involving an aircraft carrying the couple and their children. Angelina Jolie’s camp are keeping quiet following the news story but needless to say the tabloids are having a field day covering this story which is likely to dominate celebrity news for some time to come. The news that “Brangelina” has been relegated to the archives of history has travelled as far as Madame Tussauds and the museum has chosen to physically rip apart its wax figure replicas of the couple. Whatever the case may be, I suspect that the gloves will now well and truly be off.
The couple have been together since 2005, married since August 2014 and have six children. They are worth an estimated £308 million, not forgetting a large international property portfolio which includes properties in the UK, USA and France. Angelina Jolie has filed for divorce citing irreconcilable differences, seeking sole physical custody of their children. It has also been suggested that she is opposed to Brad Pitt exercising any visitation to the children at the present time. Needless to say, just like any separation, emotions will be running high and the children will be at the forefront of both of their minds.
It may seem that celebrity marriages and the ensuing divorces are glamorous affairs but what if the reason for the separation is less tabloid fodder and more like your everyday type of client? The burden of domestic care work and the unrelenting demands of parenting six children while pursuing a career can take its toll on even the most concrete relationship. So, where legally does this leave them? The first question which springs to mind is: Is there a pre-nup? It is unlikely that a couple like them, with the amount of assets they have, would not have signed one. These days having a pre-nup is not the sole privilege of the rich and famous and is a regularly used method of asset protection. If a couple subsequently separate a court can have regard to the content of any agreement entered into by the couple when it considers the division of matrimonial property.
If there is no pre-nup then the couple will be confronted with a potentially lengthy and damaging court action and the press coverage which we have seen so far will be a drop in the ocean compared to what I imagine will ensue.
It is interesting that the couple cohabited for a significant period of time before marrying two years ago and it seems that what worked well as a cohabitation could not survive a marriage. That having been said, by changing the legal status of their relationship from cohabitees to a married couple, Ms Jolie is potentially due a greater financial award than she would have been entitled to as a cohabitee in America. From a Scottish perspective that is not necessarily the case. Since 2006 cohabitees have had the right to seek financial provision following the breakdown of their relationship and under Scottish law, given the substantial length of the cohabitation, Ms Jolie would potentially be entitled to a greater financial award had she remained a cohabitee.
What does Angelina’s move for residence imply? Well, if you believe the tabloid headlines, quite a lot actually. It is suggestive that there are negative factors surrounding her husband which would impact on his ability to care for the children. In any case where allegations of abusive behaviour are made there is a requirement to investigate those further and in Scotland that could mean Social Work involvement. The best interests of the children are of paramount importance in determining what their future care arrangements should be.
I think that what should be taken from this is that: