Brad and Angelina’s kids may be called to testify in their custody dispute, so we asked two experts in child psychology for their insight.
Angelina Jolie, 45, and her ex-husband Brad Pitt, 57, are still battling over custody of their minor children — Pax, 17, Zahara, 16, Shiloh, 14, and 12-year-old twins Knox and Vivienne. And, in court documents filed on March 12, it was revealed that their kids could be called to testify.
We spoke to two experts in child psychology, with experience in divorce cases like this one, to find out how being asked to give testimony in the dispute could affect them. Psychologist Dr. Jenn Mann told HollywoodLife EXCLUSIVELY that it would be a “traumatic” experience for the kids. “It’s incredibly stressful because basically, children in that position are being asked to pick between their parents.”
“That is very traumatic,” the author of The Relationship Fix continued. “Not to mention that going on the stand, having to declare this publicly, under oath, especially for a high-profile family, but really for any kids, is very traumatic and stressful.”
However, child psychiatrist Dr. Shimi Kang MD, the author of The Dolphin Parent, told HollywoodLife EXCLUSIVELY that having kids testify can actually be “empowering” for them, as long as it’s handled correctly.
“There’s definite pros and cons to this idea of children testifying,” the child and youth psychiatrist explained. “However, the research has shown that children do want to have a say when the court is going to determine very practical and long-term aspects of their life. Like for example what home they’re going to live in, where they’re going to spend their time and vacations.
“In general, the voice of the child is very important,” she continued. “The child’s voice is very relevant to these cases. I think in general we want to empower children to have a voice. But we also have to protect them from any downsides of that. Which could be you know a parent feeling upset or angry about it.”
To make sure that the children are best protected Dr. Kang emphasized that the focus needs remain on the kids. “The children’s involvement has to be what we call child centered, meaning that they are the focus and priority. Not the parents or the courts, but it’s really their focus and prioritization.”
In order to “minimize anxiety” for the children — and to make sure evidence they are providing is “accurate,” the courts take certain steps, explained Dr. Kang. “In general it has to be done in privacy with a support person present, not necessarily either parent.”
“It’s usually done, either through a videotape or a letter or closed-circuit television,” continued the author of The Tech Solution, “because even in an open court, the child may look at their parents and get eye contact feedback. So, they want to kind of reduce any of those chances.
“Courts have different ways of empowering and protecting the child,” she added. “The purpose of a support person is really important. So that could be a therapist, or somebody who would be kind of a neutral party to help especially with younger children.”
Although Dr. Jenn recommends that parents “figure this stuff out without involving the kids,” if the situation requires the kids to testify she recommends therapy. “First of all it’s important to get the kids therapy to support them. Your child having a neutral person to talk to about how this custody battle is affecting them is really important.”
“I think that it’s important for a parent in this position to really emphasize with their child that no matter what happens, they love them,” Dr. Jenn continued. “Let them know how sorry they are that the child is being put in this position. And that you want them to be honest, when asked questions, even if it’s difficult or painful for your family.”
Angelina and Brad have been embroiled in a divorce battle since their split in Sept. 2016, and the newest docs reveal that Angelina claimed to have “proof and authority” to support allegations of domestic violence against her ex. As HollywoodLife previously reported, a source close to Brad told us EXCLUSIVELY that the domestic abuse claims are “a continuation of an ongoing relentless effort to target and tarnish” the actor.
Angelina and Brad split in Sept. 2016 and they have have been fighting over custody of their six children ever since. Their eldest son, Maddox Jolie-Pitt, 19, is now an adult so his custody is no longer an issue. But Brad is seeking 50/50 custody of their five minor children.
Since the documents in their case remain sealed it’s unclear how soon things will be wrapped up, but we will continue to update you on this on-going case.