Collaborative Law in Practice: The Brangelina Case Study (Part 2): The Role of the Child Specialist in Collaborative Practice

I recently posted a blog focusing on the Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie divorce, specifically that the collaborative law process may be beneficial for the couple. In addition to the general benefits of the collaborative process and how they may be applied to the Pitt/Jolie divorce (the previous blog can be viewed here), the Brangelina case is also an excellent candidate for collaborative law because of the children. 

learning-to-ride-a-tricycle-1432374-225x300In recent weeks, Angelina Jolie’s representatives released a statement confirming that the couple utilized child specialists in coming to a custody agreement for their six children, whose ages range from 8 to 15. The child specialists worked with Pitt and Jolie to develop a plan that would work for both parties. The plan provides that the children stay in Jolie’s custody, with Pitt having therapeutic visits. The statement used the word “visits” and for that reason it is used here.  That word has largely been replaced by parenting access.  Therapeutic visitation is usually designed to continue contact between the parent and the child/children in a supportive environment so the relationship can safely continue and be strengthened.   The statement released also indicated that this would not be considered a permanent plan, and that the arrangement would allow for modifications moving forward. It should also be noted that Pitt’s representatives did not provide details, and only stated that the plan agreed to was an extension of the temporary plan that was already in place.  The reasoning behind this particular plan or whether it is warranted in this case is not the focus of this blog.  Each family resolves legal and physical custody of the children and parenting access in a way that meets that family’s needs and particular circumstances.

love-1477676-300x226Regardless of the specifics for Pitt and Jolie’s situation, the couple sought the advice and expertise of child specialists. A child specialist is an important member of the collaborative team when parents choose the collaborative process to resolve parenting issues and/or their separation and divorce. In collaborative practice, the child specialist is a mental health professional who has experience in child development as well as divorce counseling. Because the children’s interests are often considered a top priority for divorcing couples, the child specialist provides an opportunity for the children’s voice to be heard. The child specialist works with the attorneys to provide insight and recommendations on the child-related issues.

In addition to the advice and insight the child specialist provides to the couple (and attorneys), the child specialist may also work directly with the children to educate them on the divorce and the process (this should not be confused with therapy as that is not the purpose). Talking to the children may also help the child specialist to develop recommendations for the parents.  Meetings between the child specialist and the child/children take place outside of the parents’ negotiation.

family-1437716-267x300A child specialist is beneficial in the Brangelina case for a variety of reasons. Because Pitt and Jolie are successful celebrities with complex finances and hectic work schedules, they have a lot of issues that need to be addressed in their divorce process. Both have acknowledged publicly that the children remain their focus. A child specialist can help ensure that the children’s interests are not only acknowledged, but also addressed in a practical, healthy way outside of the public eye.  Additionally, Pitt and Jolie have many children with a range of ages; so working with a child specialist could also be helpful for the children. Each child should be seen as an individual in developing the parenting plan. Children adjust to divorce in different ways, and although the child specialist is not a therapist for the children, the child specialist can sit down with each child to help educate them on how the process works and help them adjust to the separation.

Many divorcing couples focus on the children’s best interest as a high priority, and working with a child specialist is an excellent way to keep those interests front and center. Because situations are different between families, the child specialist can help the parents and the attorneys determine the best course of action for the family. More information on the child specialist can be found on my website.