Officially married two years ago, together for 12. The fairy tale is over for Angelina Jolie Pitt and Brad Pitt and it’s leaving the newsstands scrambling for more juicy gossip. The future remains to be seen.
All six of the children are temporarily under the care of Jolie Pitt and Pitt is still planning on attempting joint custody, he announced Friday. This may not be the final set-in-stone verdict of child custody.
We sat down with Dr. Jann Blackstone, a child custody mediator and author who specializes in divorce, child custody, coParenting, and combining families.
[Dr. Jann Blackstone] I’m not sure because I don’t know them personally, but the gossip in the media indicates the family was on a private plane returning from France and there was some sort of altercation on the plane. It has been reported that the altercation was between Angelina and Brad and Maddox stepped in. It was also mentioned that alcohol was involved, but, again, I do not know. The word in the media is that the altercation was then reported to the authorities.
Who was it reported to?
I don’t know for sure, but I can tell you that in similar cases, it really depends if anyone was hurt. If a child is hurt, then common protocol would be that the incident is reported to the police and then the police reports it to Child Protective Services — or if it’s reported to Child Protective Services first, depending on the severity of the altercation, they would report it to police.
What often gets lost in situations like this is that you have the right to discipline your child — and spanking is not illegal — but, leaving bruises during discipline is an issue that would be scrutinized by CPS. If you leave bruises, then you have disciplined too sternly. I don’t know if this altercation was disciplinary or an argument simply got out of hand. If alcohol was involved, it would not be uncommon for a family disagreement to spiral out of control. The incident was reported to the FBI because the altercation occurred on an airplane.
Do you know if there were bruises left?
I have no idea. But if there are ever bruises left on a child when parents discipline — and I’m talking about anyone, not Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, then if reported, CPS would investigate and there is a very real chance that it could be determined to be substantiated physical abuse.
If CPS determines an incident to be “substantiated” physical abuse, that could temporarily impact custody and the parenting plan. If nothing happened, CPS would determine the incident to be “unfounded” and the case closed. The important thing to remember is that it appears Angelina and Brad are NOT being treated differently than anyone else. The FBI is not involved because they are Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.
The FBI is involved because the incident happened on an airplane. If an incident happens in your backyard, CPS is the investigating agency. If it happens on an airplane, FBI gets involved.
And what would happen if it was determined to be substantiated physical abuse?
If CPS intervenes and an altercation is determined to be “substantiated,” they could do all sorts of things—and that doesn’t necessarily mean the children will be removed from the home, either. CPS could put a Family Maintenance Plan in place and assign a social worker to work closely with the family. They might suggest the perpetrator of the abuse attend parenting classes or go to anger management classes. If there is alcohol or drugs involved they might require some sort of rehab or aftercare program. Family Maintenance Plans are not designed to ostracize a family member, but to supply services that will help keep the family intact.
What do the “therapeutic” visits mean, which are apparently what Pitt has with the kids?
Truthfully, they are about the most resptrictive visits we recommend. Therapeutic vists are parent/child visitation in session with a therapist. They are recommended when the child and parent are estranged for some reason and they have things to work out prior to visits. I have recommended therapeutic vists when childreen have witnessed domestic violence between their parents and the chld is refusing to visit the other parent. Trust has been breeched for some reason–possibly the parent has a drug or alcohol problem. I have also recommended therapeutic visits when there has been physical altercations or verbal abuse between parent and child and the child is refusing to visit. Another reason might be that the parent has been absent for long periods of time and the parent/child bond is in jeapordy or the child feels abandoned and needs reinforcement.
What would be your advice to someone who is in the same situation?
Be proactive. if you can see there are ongoing problems, get help. Get a therapist involved. When things spiral out of control, you can see it coming, but by that time, it’s too difficult to heal your own family.
You need professionals to intervene and help guide you, offer tools. Truthfully, it is my experience that alcohol, whether it is a problem or not, makes things worse. You say and do things you probably wouldn’t do if you were not drinking. People become far more short-tempered. So, my advice for anyone in this situation would be to begin by looking into help with stress management and curb one’s alcohol consumption when stressed.
If you have exhausted what you know about positive parenting, don’t be afraid to say you need help. Many parents have adequate parenting tools to cope with younger children, but once a child hits their teens, it’s a whole new ball game. If parents have used physical discipline in the past, but must stop (for whatever reason) and do not have new more positive disciplinary tactics in place, it’s not uncommon to resort to parenting be intimidation. They yell or scream or threaten–and all are ineffective. There are lots of positive parenting classes available and therapists that specialize in parenting. Be proactive, not reactive. Ask for help.