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Pitt, Jolie child custody battle intensifies

The marriage and divorce of celebrities Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie has captured the attention of many people in the nation -- and there are signs that the drama is far from over.

The Hollywood power couple split about two years ago amid nasty allegations that Pitt had abused one of the children and had a substance-abuse problem. Since then, there's been little sign that the two have found any sort of common ground. Now, there are indications that the custody battle over their six children is likely to get even more intense.

Jolie currently has temporary custody of the children, but there have been rumors that the court is less-than-pleased about her unwillingness to let Pitt have appropriate visitation. In return, Jolie has publicly charged Pitt with a failure to support his children -- although she claims that she would like to see the children heal the relationship they have with Pitt.

However, Jolie has recently changed attorneys, and her new attorney is highly experienced in the protection of children and arguments regarding their best interests. That may signal that Jolie is going to be more aggressive in the future about her stance toward her children's father and push the court to make her custody final.

When deciding custody, the best interests of the children are the court's primary concern -- and that usually means having both parents actively involved a child's life. The custodial parent is generally expected to facilitate a relationship between the child and the other parent. Any unwillingness to do that can be legally dangerous and cause a court to give primary custody to the other parent.

However, courts also have to consider whether or not it is somehow harming the children to be forced into contact with an estranged parent. If the parent is abusive, for example, the court may not insist on shared parenting.

For now, both parents may be on fragile ground -- at least until the court makes a final decision about what is really in their children's best interests. Watching the case unfold is a reminder that custody disputes usually happen because two people have vastly different ideas about what is really best for the children.

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