Court disqualifies judge in Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt's divorce case

The decision to remove Judge John W. Ouderkirk from the case could restart their custody fight

An appeals court on Friday disqualified a private judge being used by Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt in their ongoing divorce case.

The ruling hands Jolie a victory as the 2nd District Court of Appeal in California agreed with the actress that Judge John W. Ouderkirk didn't sufficiently disclose business relationships with Pitt's attorneys.

"Judge Ouderkirk’s ethical breach, considered together with the information disclosed concerning his recent professional relationships with Pitt’s counsel, 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," the court ruled.

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The 2nd District Court of Appeal sided with Angelina Jolie's request to remove a private judge in her and Brad Pitt's divorce case.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal sided with Angelina Jolie's request to remove a private judge in her and Brad Pitt's divorce case. (Reuters)

The decision means that the custody fight over the couple's five minor children, which was nearing an end, could be starting over.

The judge already ruled the pair divorced, but separated the child custody issues.

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Like many celebrity couples, Pitt and Jolie opted to hire their own judge to increase their privacy in the divorce proceedings.

"The appeals court ruling was based on a technical procedural issue. The facts haven’t changed. There is an extraordinary amount of factual evidence which led the judge — and the many experts who testified — to reach their clear conclusion about what is in the children’s best interests," a statement by Pitt's representative said. "We will continue to do what’s necessary legally based on the detailed findings of what’s best for the children."

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Jolie, 46, and Pitt, 57, were among Hollywood’s most prominent couples for 12 years. They had been married for two years when Jolie filed for divorce in 2016. They were declared divorced in April 2019, after their lawyers asked for a judgment that allowed a married couple to be declared single while other issues remained, including finances and child custody.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.