World War Brange: the legal letters
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As posted yesterday, a judge denied Brad Pitt’s application to seal the divorce documents after Angelina Jolie formally filed their temporary custody agreement with the court last Friday. He claimed that she was compromising the privacy of their children. Her side argued in court documents that “his request is a thinly veiled attempt to shield himself, rather than the minor children, from public view”. Representing Angelina, Laura Wasser noted that that Brad’s motion to seal the documents did not meet the requirements for an “emergency”, a position the judge evidently agreed with, and now another hearing has been scheduled for January 17th when both parties will go at it again after more time to prepare.
So how did we get here? While Brad’s team is insisting that he’s reacting to Angelina’s filing of the custody agreement on Friday, calling it an unnecessary move, Angelina’s team makes the case in their documentation, submitted to the court yesterday, which includes correspondence between Laura Wasser and Lance Spiegel, Brad’s lawyer, that all of this started well before Friday’s filing and has to do with Brad’s attempts to change the temporary custody agreement, an agreement both Brad and Angelina agreed to.
The temporary custody agreement was put in place on October 26th – Angelina has full temporary custody of the children, Brad has to go therapy on his own once a week and participate in joint therapy sessions with the children and Angelina, and has to submit to drug and alcohol testing four times a month. And it’s up to a therapist to decide whether or not the supervised visitation schedule changes. These terms were agreed upon by both Angelina and Brad. Three weeks later, however, Brad’s lawyer was sending letters and emails to Angelina’s lawyer demanding to change the terms of the agreement, asking for more time with the kids and asking to add another therapist to the therapy team, without consulting the therapists that have been handling the case. Angelina’s lawyer responded and was like, OK, we can do that, but can we sit down with the current therapy team first, and get their buy-in, before we make any changes? Here’s the exact wording from correspondence – this is Laura Wasser to Lance Spiegel:
You have told us that you intend to file a request for additional non-therapeutic visitation and do not seem to have any regard for what the children's therapists feel is in their best interests. I understand that Brad is frustrated but feel that it is incumbent upon us to help this family achieve their long-term reunification goals in a smooth and expeditious manner. Litigation absolutely does not effectuate that goal.
Is it not the end goal that within the next 6-12 months Brad is enjoying frequent and continuous contact with all of the children on a joint custodial basis? If we know that we will get to that point via either costly, ugly, protracted and public court battles or by virtue of out-of-court resolution and the therapeutic process upon which we all agreed less than a month ago, why would you opt to blow it all up and choose the former?
Please give the therapists a chance to tell us how the kids are feeling. I absolutely know that it will not be dispositive of your/your client's decision on how to proceed but I cannot imagine that it will not shape how we move forward.
There must be a middle ground upon which we can all agree, one which does not necessitate a public battle. Angie's reluctance to enter into a stipulation to seal the file stems from her firm belief that litigation is the wrong decision.
We have discussed a custody evaluation in this matter. As we advised yesterday, we are agreeable and would like it to commence immediately. We propose that Dr. XXX be appointed. Is Brad agreeable? You have told us that you will not agree to the appointment of minor's counsel. We feel it is essential that the children have advocates who can communicate with the evaluator or the judge on their behalf. Will you reconsider? We also propose that the parties participate in joint sessions with a trauma specialist so that they may learn how to best support and interact with their children given their currentstate.
Please consider and ask your client to engage with us in trying to figure out how to effectively satisfy this family's concerns.
And here is Lance Spiegel’s response to Laura Wasser the next day, December 2:
The message that I attempted to deliver on Wednesday was that it is inconceivable to me that the court will not provide Brad with much greater access to the children than the time that I proposed earlier this week. It would be an extraordinary understatement to describe Brad as an involved parent. Based on evidence that has been corroborated by multiple sources (including public and private statements from your client), he has been a great father and there is no reason to exclude him from the children, including the isolated incident that was investigated and rejected by the DCFS.
As you know, we have confirmed that we will be present for the meeting on Monday. However, I have to tell you that this case is not going to end up in a court room because of my reluctance to listen to the therapists. If there is litigation, it is going to be because your client is either unable or unwilling to recognize that the children need to continue to have two loving parents in their lives.
I will get back to you regarding Dr. XXX and on Monday I hope that you will be able to respond to Brad's request regarding the holidays.
After that, Angelina’s team formally filed the temporary custody agreement with the court, presumably to ensure that the terms would be complied with. Brad’s team, as you know, interpreted it to mean she wanted to embarrass him. And, of course, both of them are aggressively pushing their respective positions through the media, which is what will still happen anyway even if Brad’s application to seal the documents is granted. These letters, at least, give you perhaps a better idea of how the situation looks on paper.