To research the case of Jolie v. Pitt for a Baltimore Sun op-ed on “private justice,” Laurence M. Katz Professor of Law Jane Murphy didn’t head for the law library. Instead, she picked up copies of People and Us Weekly for a deep dive into the breakup of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.
The actors have six children ranging in age from 8 to 15.
“Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt may have had the ultimate Hollywood romance from the outside, but behind closed doors, their marriage was slowly coming apart,” People reported on Sept. 21.
Murphy says gossip fans who expect a grisly courtroom showdown will be disappointed.
“[T]he chances that any mudslinging will take place in a public court battle are extremely low,” Murphy wrote in her Sept. 30 op-ed, “Why the Jolie-Pitt divorce won’t be like Kramer vs. Kramer.”
“Given their wealth, their desire for privacy and, one assumes, their concern for their children, Brad and Angelina are unlikely to resolve this family conflict in court. Families with money can now choose when and how much the state will be involved in their breakup and reorganization.”
Murphy writes that the options for private justice have expanded since 2005, particularly in cases involving children: “Relying on traditional court processes at best fails to mitigate parental conflict and at worst exacerbates and prolongs discord. When a custody case does go to trial, the evidence and counter-evidence of bad behavior and deficient parenting typically introduced fuels hostility and engenders long-term mutual distrust.”
For families of means, the focus is now on agreements negotiated by third parties outside the court system.
“Although traditional lawyer-directed negotiation still accounts for many settlement agreements in family law, mediation is increasingly the preferred option to resolve divorce-related parenting disputes,” Murphy wrote.
Murphy is the co-author of Divorced From Reality: Rethinking Family Dispute Resolution (NYU Press, 2015).