Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt Custody Battle Turned Into a Full-blown Court War

With Angelina Jolie's years-long custody battle with Brad Pitt hitting headlines once again in recent days, it's becoming increasingly difficult to remember a time when they graced red carpets as Hollywood's golden couple.

The former Brangelina announced the end of their marriage in September 2016—two years after tying the knot in August 2014—with Jolie filing for divorce, citing "irreconcilable differences."

But more than just a love split, the end of their marriage sparked a long-running custody battle over their children, sons Maddox, 19, and Pax,17; daughters Zahara, 16, Shiloh, 15, and 12-year-old fraternal twins Vivienne and Knox.

In May, Us Weekly revealed that Pitt, 57, had achieved a major breakthrough in his court battle with Jolie, as Judge John Ouderkirk temporarily awarded him joint custody of their children, excluding Maddox, who is no longer a minor.

Amid a host of claims about Jolie and Pitt's feelings on the matter, the occasional seeping out of court information has indicated fierce battles behind the scenes.

It was revealed earlier this year that Jolie, who was reportedly seeking sole custody of the children, had alleged incidents of domestic violence involving Pitt.

In August 2020—Jolie, who turns 46 on Friday—had attempted to remove Ouderkirk from the case, claiming the judge had failed to disclose "ongoing business and professional relationships" with Pitt and his legal team, according to Us Weekly.

She also charged in May that the judge had barred her children from testifying in the case, with her team alleging in court documents seen by Us Weekly: "Judge Ouderkirk denied Ms. Jolie a fair trial, improperly excluding her evidence relevant to the children's health, safety, and welfare, evidence critical to making her case."

Pitt was reported to have hit his son Maddox while aboard a private jet—an incident alleged to have taken place one day before Jolie filed for divorce. He was later cleared, according to The Guardian.

The former couple, whose romance blossomed after they worked together on their 2005 hit movie Mr. & Mrs. Smith, have also spoken in a number of different interviews about the aftermath of their split.

"I separated for the wellbeing of my family," Jolie, a special envoy for the United Nation Refugee Agency told Vogue India in the summer of 2020. "It was the right decision.

"I continue to focus on their healing. Some have taken advantage of my silence, and the children see lies about themselves in the media, but I remind them that they know their own truth and their own minds."

She also opened up during an interview for British Vogue's March 2021 issue, where she was asked whether she was at a happy stage in her life.

"The past few years have been pretty hard," she responded. "I've been focusing on healing our family. It's slowly coming back, like the ice melting and the blood returning to my body."

Jolie has expressed her dissatisfaction at having to be based in California following the breakdown of her marriage, after years of being known for frequently jetting around the globe with her children.

"I would love to live abroad and will do so as soon as my children are 18," the Oscar-winning actress told Harper's Bazaar in 2019. "Right now I'm having to base where their father chooses to live."

For his part, Pitt said in the months that followed his split from Jolie that he felt compelled to "be more" for his children, while also admitting he hadn't been the best at "taking inventory of my emotions" in the past.

Speaking to GQ about custody arrangements in 2017, he said: "I was really on my back and chained to a system when Child Services was called. And you know, after that, we've been able to work together to sort this out. We're both doing our best.

"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, you spend a year just focused on building a case to prove your point and why you're right and why they're wrong, and it's just an investment in vitriolic hatred.

"I just refuse. And fortunately my partner in this agrees. It's just very, very jarring for the kids, to suddenly have their family ripped apart."

He also spoke about quitting alcohol and marijuana, telling the publication: "For me every misstep has been a step toward epiphany, understanding, some kind of joy. Yeah, the avoidance of pain is a real mistake. It's the real missing out on life."

Pitt was previously married to Jennifer Aniston between 2000 and 2005. Jolie was married to Johnny Lee Miller for three years from 1996 and divorced with Billy Bob Thornton in 2003, after three years of marriage.

Newsweek has contacted representatives for Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt for comment.

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt
Angelina Jolie have been locked in an increasingly bitter custody battle since announcing the end of their marriage in 2016. Pitt was recently awarded temporary joint custody of their children after Jolie reportedly sought sole custody. Jeff Spicer & Chris Pizzello/Getty Images