By Maria Puente | USA Today
Another week, another celebrity divorce involving legal jousting over — no, not the bank accounts, the houses or the luxury toys — but the custody of minor children. This week Scarlett Johansson and her French estranged husband have taken the path recently trod by Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, and Robin Thicke and Paula Patton.
The two-year marriage of Johansson, 32, and Romain Dauriac, 34, is over but what happens next in their struggle over who gets custody of 2-year-old daughter Rose? Will they be able to work out a settlement in which they share custody, the usual ideal? Will she be able to take the child wherever she goes in her film-making career? Or will Dauriac be able to take the child back to his native Paris?
“The strategy employed by Johansson’s lawyers makes sense to me. To avoid the possibility of traveling to France to litigate the divorce her attorneys preemptively filed in New York. I don’t think this necessarily means Johansson is not willing to continue mediating the issues. She likely just wanted to ensure that in the event litigation was necessary it would take place in her own backyard. Assuming the court finds the child has been living in New York for six consecutive months prior to the divorce filing then her plan will have worked to perfection. Kudos to her lawyers for their planning.
Establishing jurisdiction is only the first hurdle though. The article notes the parties and their lawyers will then have to participate in what we refer to here in Arizona as a comprehensive family evaluation. This requirement appears to be mandatory in New York yet is discretionary in Arizona. A comprehensive family evaluation is a type of family study that can take considerable time to complete and is extremely expensive for most ordinary divorcing couples. The selected mental health professional will assess various aspects of the family in an effort to determine and recommend to the Judge what is in this child’s best interest. Such aspects include evaluating the parties’ mental health, the relationship between the child and each parent, any drug or alcohol issues, geographical issues, etc. As with most celebrities divorces this case will undoubtedly pose unique challenges for the lawyers and experts involved.”