The long-pending split of Hollywood power couple Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt was tossed into further disarray Friday when a state appeals court panel sided with the actress and disqualified the privately hired judge who had been overseeing the divorce and child custody case.
Jolie, 46, petitioned to disqualify Judge John Ouderkirk, claiming he failed to disclosure business ties with attorneys representing Pitt, 57. A Superior Court judge in November rejected Jolie’s bid to have Ouderkirk disqualified. Jolie appealed the decision.
In a 44-page ruling Friday, a three-judge panel of the state’s 2nd District Court of Appeal overturned the Superior Court’s ruling, instructing the judge “to enter a new order disqualifying Judge Ouderkirk from serving as a temporary judge” in the divorce case.
The panel determined that Ouderkirk had failed to properly disclose his involvement in other matters involving attorneys for Pitt.
Pitt’s attorneys objected to efforts to disqualify Ouderkirk, insisting he had complied with “all standard ethical practices and rules.” They also contended during arguments before the appeals panel that Jolie only raised conflict issues when Ouderkirk ruled against her on various issues in the case.
The appellate panel ruled, however, that Ouderkirk’s actions “might cause an objective person, aware of all the facts, reasonably to entertain a doubt as to the judge’s ability to be impartial. Disqualification is required.”
Ouderkirk actually officiated over the couple’s 2014 wedding, and the couple mutually agreed to hire him to privately preside over their divorce, which was filed by Jolie in September 2016.
His disqualification now throws the long-pending dissolution case into further disarray, and leaves questions about custody of the couple’s children in limbo.
The couple have six children: Pax, 17; Zahara, 16; Shiloh, 14; twins Vivienne and Knox, 13; and Maddox, 19. Maddox is considered an adult is not subject to any custody agreement.
Temporary custody arrangements between the couple have not been publicly released, although Pitt was seeking joint custody of the children, with Jolie looking to have primary physical custody.
Jolie’s attorneys argued in court filings earlier this year that Ouderkirk rejected her request that the children be permitted to testify in the custody case. The actress has alluded in court papers to violence issues involving Pitt.
The couple’s split made international headlines following a dispute that erupted during an overseas flight to Los Angeles the family was on. The fallout led to child-abuse investigations of Pitt by local and federal officials, but the actor was never charged with a crime.
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