October 17, 2022
Mark Twain is often quoted as saying, “Truth is stranger than fiction”. And indeed, Hollywood stories sometimes pale in comparison to the real-life celebrity life and death experiences, which are by no means immune from intense journeys through the legal system.
The romance, marriage, and breakup of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have been tabloid fodder for years. This blog will discuss why the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie divorce and division of property are so complicated and what you need to know about divorce, child custody arrangements, and property division if you are considering or experiencing your dissolution.
California, like Texas, is a community property state. For the most part, income and assets acquired during the marriage are considered “community property,” and must be divided in divorce regardless of whose name is on the title of a property, vehicle, or bank account. All assets are considered, including properties, automobiles, airplanes, businesses, and retirement account contributions. Inheritances are generally separate property, but these can easily become commingled, such as when an asset is purchased, or a couple moves into an inherited home.
One of the difficult things about getting divorced in a community property state is dividing property - and establishing what was your separate property. You need to bring your receipts! Or more accurately, you have to legally establish that separate property meets the criteria to be separate, both for assets and debts. Separating commingled property can be very tricky when there are numerous investments and assets purchased and sold, sometimes over many years or several decades.
In the Pitt-Jolie divorce, the property was likely commingled because the couple lived together for years before they were married. They were first linked in 2004, and their first child was born in May 2006. However, they did not get married until August 23, 2014. We know they bought Chateau Miraval, a French country estate and vineyard, in 2008. They also owned property in New Orleans’ French Quarter, the Spanish island of Majorca, Santa Barbara, California, and New York City.
Multiple news reports have reported that the Pitt-Jolie divorce was subject to an “ironclad” prenup. However, the Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt prenup, if they had one, is a private agreement - like all prenuptial agreements. The only parties that need to know all the details are the two spouses and their attorneys. Likely, their prenuptial agreement had a confidentiality clause - many high-profile marriage prenups have one.
Prenuptial agreements are agreements that establish and regulate how marital property, assets, and liability are treated in a divorce. They can be tailored to each couple’s unique circumstances - and even altered or revoked if both parties agree. Prenuptial agreements cannot include issues of child support or child custody.
In 2008, Pitt and Jolie leased the 35-room, 1,200-acre Château Miraval, in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in southeastern France. The long-term lease included an option to buy the sprawling villa. They exercised that option in 2011 and also bought a 50/50 partnership in a wine business with Mark Perrin, a fifth-generation French winemaker. They launched Miraval Wines on Valentine’s Day 2013 with the Perrin Family, selling out 6,000 bottles of Rose in less than a day. Jolie and Pitt were secretly married on the Miraval estate in 2014.
Although the divorce was ongoing, tensions escalated significantly in 2021 when Jolie sold her interest in the wine business to Tenute del Mondo, part of the Stoli Group. Upon finding out, Pitt sued Jolie, claiming Jolie’s business Nouvel owed his business, Mondo Bongo, the right of first refusal.
Angelina Jolie’s company Nouvel filed a lawsuit against Pitt in September 2022, claiming that Pitt attempted to cut her out of the winery as an act of retaliation. She accused Pitt of planning to secretly move assets from Château Miraval to companies owned by him and his friends, and alleged that he “squandered tens of millions of Château Miraval’s money on vanity projects.”
In every divorce, the court’s goal should be to determine child custody based on the best interest of the children. Jolie and Pitt have had somewhat of a bitter custody case since Jolie’s 2016 divorce filing. They had a private judge handling their custody case, but in 2021, Jolie made a case to the 2nd District Court of Appeal that the judge did not sufficiently disclose his business relationships with Pitt’s lawyers. The court agreed, essentially sending the case back to the starting line.
Child support is based on a guideline formula, which is different in each state. In California, child support considers the percentage of time the child spends with each parent and the parent's income. Of course, there are many situations of special circumstances, and parents having an extraordinarily high income is one scenario that may be a reason for departure from basic child support guidelines.
In Texas, the noncustodial parent pays child support to the custodial parent, but judges can deviate from state guidelines when necessary or appropriate.
Angelina Jolie filed for divorce in 2016. So why is it still making headline news - and still not finalized, six years later? Divorce is never a simple process, and the Jolie-Pitt divorce is complicated because there is a lot at stake.
The two have six children, multiple properties, and numerous businesses and business interests. It takes time to discuss and negotiate, demand and respond. In the Jolie Pitt divorce, there have been numerous additional allegations (including abuse), business transactions, lawsuits, and countersuits which have further complicated proceedings
Prenuptial agreements can make provisions for various possibilities, and a prenup is likely involved in Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s dissolution. But it is not possible to predict the future, and prenups may not address every scenario or contingency It seems the irreconcilable differences Jolie cited in her divorce filing made them unable to agree on even how to dissolve the marriage.
Hiring an experienced and knowledgeable family law attorney can allow you to navigate the division of assets in divorce, and obtain the best financial and emotional outcome for you and your children.
Celebrities in Hollywood go through heartache and divorce just like all of us. Although we are far removed from the Angelina and Brad divorce, we understand the difficulty of high-net-worth divorces, having been on the front lines of many. Family Law of North Texas handle all types of divorce cases, from simple to complex and ultra-high net worth. If you’d like to discuss your situation with a divorce attorney, contact us for a free consultation.
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