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With the surprise news that Angelina Jolie has filed for divorce, this has caused many rumours to circulate on social media as to the real reasons for the breakdown of her marriage to Brad Pitt. Media reports cite a variety of reasons, from Pitt’s alleged bad parenting to his alleged substance abuse and an alleged affair with a French Actress. Ms Jolie’s lawyer, Robert Offer, would only say: “This decision was made for the health of the family”. Of course we are unlikely to ever know the real reasons for the breakdown but this led to me to think, what if Angelina divorced Brad in England as opposed to the United States? After all, the pair do have links to England having reportedly bought a home in Richmond, London in 2012 for £10 million, this property may need to be sold off as part of any divorce settlement.

In the US it is possible to file for divorce by citing “irreconcilable differences” and that is the reason for the divorce given by Angelina Jolie. This essentially means that the spouse commencing the divorce is not alleging any fault on the part of the other.  Unlike the United States however, under English law, should Angelina have commenced divorce proceedings here, she would have to evidence the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage with any one of the following facts:

  • Brad’s adultery;
  • Brad’s unreasonable behaviour during the marriage;
  • Brad’s desertion;
  • that they had been living apart for at least 2 years and both consent to the divorce; or
  • they have been separated for over 5 years.

The concept of “irreconcilable differences” does not currently exist in English law, and even if Brad and Angelina simply grew apart due to their hectic work schedules and time spent apart due to filming commitments, the only option for Angelina at this time, if she were to divorce Brad under English law would be to attribute fault. For some couples this can unfortunately lead to ‘mudslinging,’ and increased acrimony and go on to affect how they communicate with each other when it comes to other issues such as agreeing a split of the marital assets or the future arrangements for the children.

If reports are true in that one of Angelina’s main frustrations were the way Brad parents their six children, by citing irreconcilable differences it can be said that Angelina has sent out a strong message that the focus of divorce should not be on blame but instead on moving forward on a constructive and amicable basis for the good of the children.  It is not yet known what will happen with the children, but if the couple wish to avoid costly and lengthy court proceedings in relation to the children they will both need to adopt a child centred approach in an area where strong emotions can come into play.

If you are thinking about divorce or any family law matter please do not hesitate to contact me on 0343 507 5142. The Family and Matrimonial team at Gorvins can advise you as to the likely length of proceedings and the best way to protect your interests on divorce. If you prefer, you can send an email addressed to me at enquiries@gorvins.com.