Divorce is a dime in dozen in Hollywood and couples once so loved-up often end up tearing each other apart with knives dripping with rancour and recrimination.
But even by Tinseltown standards, this one is quite something.
Angelina Jolie has upped the stakes in her divorce battle with Brad Pitt and now, four-and-a-half years after the implosion of Brangelina, those knives are still being sharpened.
At stake are the six children – and while both parents have always maintained the happiness and stability of the kids are most important of all, things are dissolving into an ugly mess. And those half dozen young people are the ones who could well end up suffering the most.
In what has been called the “bitter endgame” of the divorce saga, Angelina filed court documents last month stating she is prepared again to accuse Brad of domestic violence in the upcoming trial.
She states she has “proof and authority” in the form of video recordings and testimony from their children – Maddox (19), Pax (17), Zahara (16), Shiloh (14) and twins Vivienne and Knox (12).
It’s unclear if all the children gave testimony because both parents have to give consent and there’s no indication Brad would’ve agreed to it.
But it is Maddox – who is no longer a minor – who is clearly leading the charge.
It’s no secret he has no time for his father and his testimony has “not been very flattering” towards Brad, insiders say.
The teen, who is enrolled at Seoul’s Yonsei University in Korea, has basically cut Brad off and their relationship is non-existent. He even wants to drop Pitt from his surname, although Angie – who is very close to her eldest – is said to be against this.
Angie’s filing, the contents of which are sealed to the public, have left Brad “gutted”, people in his camp say – especially as he was cleared of abuse charges following an investigation by child services in 2016.“Brad is heartbroken it has come to this,” a friend tells ETOnline. “He’s anxious to get custody worked out so the family can finally move on.”
He is fighting for 50/50 legal and physical custody while Angie wants to retain her primary physical custody with limited visitation rights for Brad.
“Many believe Angelina’s latest move is part of a strategy to discredit her ex and sway the court in her favour,” the friend says.
There have been times the pair have tried to work things out – for example, they reached a temporary custody deal in November 2018.
But things deteriorated and there have been several developments, including Angie’s dismissed petition to have their longstanding private judge, John W Ouderkirk, removed from the case because she saw him as biased towards Brad’s legal team.
The pair also headed to court late last year with 20-plus witnesses that included former bodyguards, medical experts, personal assistants and Angie’s Girl, Interrupted co-star Jillian Armenante.
The outcome was not made public but afterwards one of Angie’s top lawyers, Priya Sopori, quit – the latest of her legal eagles to want out. This could indirectly benefit Brad, legal experts say.
READ MORE | Angelina Jolie gets candid in new interview: 'I’m not a good stay-at-home mom'
“It’s basically saying something bad is happening in the petitioner’s [Angelina’s] case,” leading US attorney Raoul Felder says. “Either she is not following the lawyer’s advice or there is some reason the lawyer wants to get off the case.
“So, I’d be very happy if I was Brad Pitt. He can say, listen, she couldn’t get along with her own lawyer. Lawyers think very carefully before they say enough is enough and they want to get out.”
According to divorce lawyer Christina Previte, Angie is doing herself a disservice if she “continues to resist the process and avoid addressing the real issues”.
“She is only going to make herself look bad to the court. It will appear as though she isn't making reasonable efforts to resolve the case.”
There are also concerns that Brad’s relationship with his kids is suffering.
“If the court becomes convinced that Angelina isn’t fostering a relationship between the children and their father, this may not bode well for her custody position,” Previte says.
One thing is dead certain now: fans who’d hoped Brad and Angie may work things out and sink back into each other’s arms have had to accept it is highly unlikely to happen.
That flight from France to Los Angeles in September 2016 – that’s where it all ended. Details have been picked over thoroughly but they’re worth a recap because it was all just so gobsmacking.
Angie and Brad got into an argument shortly after take-off in France and by the time they landed in Minnesota in the US to refuel, eyewitnesses described Brad as being “drunk and out of control”.
MyTalk radio hostsBradley Traynor and Colleen Lindstrom claimed the partner of an airport employee told them workers could hear arguing from the plane before the doors even opened.
“The arguing spilled out onto the tarmac at which point, Brad relieved himself on the tarmac,” Lindstrom said. “He also drove around the tarmac in a fuel truck before reversing and crashing into another airport vehicle.”
Things escalated when Brad got back on the jet and they continued to LA. At some point Maddox tried to intervene and when he did, Brad reportedly lunged at him, making some kind of physical contact.
When they got to LA, Angie piled all the kids into her car and drove away. A few weeks later she filed for divorce and in a subsequent interview with Vogue, she stated she separated “for the wellbeing of my family”.
Brad went on to quit drinking and seek therapy, admitting his boozing was a problem in their two-year marriage.
Authorities cleared him of child abuse charges but it seemed whatever happened on that flight has done its damage. Maddox – the adorable little boy Brad fell in love with way back when he and Angie got together – wants nothing more to do with him.
And as he’s 19 and a legal adult, he can pretty much do what he wants.
As Brad himself once said, “I heard one lawyer say, ‘No one wins in court – it’s just a matter of who gets hurt worse’. And it seems to be true.”
Sources: etonline.com, thecut.com, usmagazine.com, nickiswift.com, hollywoodlife.com, pagesix.com, independent.co.uk