Child Protective Services Continues Investigation of Brad Pitt
The Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services recently extended its investigation into allegations that Brad Pitt physically and verbally abused his children while flying on a plane from Europe to Los Angeles. These allegations followed the news that Angelina Jolie filed for divorce from Pitt but, according to NBC, the issue of child custody will be determined in family court and not by child protective services.
On September 14, 2016, an anonymous reporter contacted child protective services and alleged that Pitt “got wasted” while traveling on a private plane and “went wild, screaming and getting physical with the kids.” Afterwards, at around 8:00 p.m., Pitt “continued his rant on the tarmac.” According to media reports, Jolie has requested sole custody of the couple’s six children: Maddox Jolie-Pitt, 15; Pax Jolie-Pitt, 12; Zahara Jolie-Pitt, 11; Shiloh Jolie-Pitt, 10; and eight-year-old twins Knox Jolie-Pitt and Vivienne Jolie-Pitt. There is no indication that NJ Children and Family Services would need to intervene to seek custody of the children.
Although this “Brangelina” situation is unfolding in California, it sheds light on the fact that anyone, including celebrities, can be the subject of an investigation by child protective services. In New Jersey, the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (“DCP&P”), formerly the Division of Youth and Family Services (“DYFS”), is legally obligated to investigate every single DCP&P referral that is called in to the NJ Child Abuse Hotline, regardless of who the alleged perpetrator of child abuse or child neglect may be. In other words, DCP&P cannot pick and choose whom they investigate because once a referral is called in, there is no discretion – an investigation must be initiated. Moreover, even if an anonymous party makes a call to the hotline, DCP&P must investigate the referral. This case also brings to light that DCP&P often becomes involved with families that are already dealing with a custody dispute, further complicating an already-difficult situation.