Brad Pitt just got a major break in his contentious divorce with Angelina Jolie.
On Wednesday, the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services decided that Pitt did not commit child abuse during a family dispute on a private plane as they traveled back from France to the U.S. in September, a source familiar with the report that was not authorized to speak publicly tells USA TODAY.
That's a big win for the actor, who is currently fighting for joint custody of their six children, who range in age from 8 to 15. Jolie, who filed for divorce on Sept. 22, is currently seeking sole custody. TMZ says the case was "exhaustively investigated."
DCFS is barred by law from commenting on investigations.
Peter Walzer, a divorce attorney in Los Angeles who has represented celebrity clients, says the DCSF clearance is "no surprise" and it means the Jolie-Pitt divorce-and-custody matter will end up looking like similar disputes in Los Angeles County.
"It's an unwritten rule (the parties) get defacto joint physical custody, which is 50-50 time," Walzer says. "It means shared time with the other parent. You have to work really hard not to get equal time in this county. And what that looks like is 2/2/5 — she gets them two days, he gets them two days and they alternative weekends Friday to Monday."
But California law also gives the kids some say, especially if they're over 14. "There is a statute that allows kids over 14 to tell the court what they want and the court must consider it," Walzer says. "It doesn't mean they have to follow it but generally they do. When a kid says 'I don’t want to be with dad or mom,' that’s what's going to happen.The court has to consider what the kid wants to do."
At the moment, under a temporary custody arrangement, the children are living with Jolie in a Malibu rented home, and Pitt has seen some of them during a handful of monitored visits.
On Monday, Jolie's PR team released a statement saying she and Pitt had reached a "legal agreement" continuing to give Jolie custody, but sources familiar with the situation but not authorized to speak publicly disputed that claim, telling USA TODAY permanent custody had not been determined.
Walzer says a final custody arrangement would have to be approved by a divorce court judge, and only after the DCFS inquiry was concluded.
California divorce courts generally favor joint custody.
Jolie and Pitt were together for 12 years and were married for two years. The pair recently began dividing up their assets, selling a home they purchased in New Orleans' French Quarter for $4.9 million.
Pitt is expected to make an appearance for his new film Allied tonight in Los Angeles.
USA TODAY reached out to representatives for Pitt and Jolie for comment.