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Divorce system prompts bitter couples to use kids as weapons
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By Andrea Peyser
January 30, 2017

Divorce system prompts bitter couples to use kids as weapons

The human tragedy isn’t restricted to loved ones of boldfaced names, such as Brangelina and Uma Thurman. As my friend Brenda learned the hard way, the epic hatred between her and her ex-husband, which played out in a long and bruising legal battle over the custody of their two sons, scarred the boys’ psyches in ways both awful and permanent.

Never again will they be able to love freely. Never again will they be able to trust.

“They absorbed the garbage flowing between their father and me to the point where they both have rage issues,” Brenda told me from her now-empty nest in New York City.

“One of them legally changed his last name when he reached adulthood. That’s anger. That’s trying to change who you are.’’

After more than three years of litigation left Brenda virtually impoverished, after the kids were shuttled across state lines between her home and her ex’s, she won primary custody. But at what cost?

She came to a bitter realization: The only parties to benefit from protracted power struggles between adults are the lawyers. Everyone else is roadkill.

The misery is showing no signs of letting up.

All across America and even abroad, parents, most anonymous and unmoneyed, others selfish and narcissistic, fight for custody of vulnerable youngsters. Some try to save kids from abusive situations.

Even more commonly, fractured families get sucked into a custody vortex that exacerbates mental wounds and creates income streams for psychotherapists.

Take the galling case of Kelly Rutherford.

The American actress best known for her role in the TV show “Gossip Girl” was trounced by a California judge in her quest for custody of her two young American-born kids with German-born rich guy Daniel Giersch. She was forced to travel to France and Monaco to see her little ones after Giersch’s business visa was revoked by the State Department for unknown reasons, and he was forbidden from setting foot in the United States.

After six years of commuting to Europe, a bankruptcy filing and a court ruling that amounted to institutional misogyny, Rutherford lost. A New York judge ordered the children to live with their dad.

Angelina Jolie soon-not-to-be-Pitt may have raised using custody as cudgel to an operatic level. After blindsiding Brad Pitt by filing for divorce last year, headline-grabbing stories, anonymously sourced, popped up everywhere: Brad had substance-abuse issues; he’d been unfaithful and enjoyed the paid services of Russian hookers; he was physically abusive to one of his sons.

He denied it all — and was cleared by California and federal authorities of abuse allegations.

Finally, the pair hired a private judge to settle the case quietly.

That’s more than I can report about “Kill Bill” actress Uma Thurman, 46, and her French-born financier ex-boyfriend, Arpad “Arki” Busson, 54, father of 4-year-old Rosalind Arusha Arkadina Altalune Florence Thurman-Busson — known as Luna.

The former couple’s eight-day custody trial in Manhattan Supreme Court amounted to a creepy spectator sport. Busson’s lawyer accused Thurman of mixing prescription pills with alcohol, which Justice Matthew Cooper deemed irrelevant to the case. Thurman’s side accused Busson of being addicted to prostitutes, which he denied before the judge cut off testimony about it.

But you can’t unring those bells. Luna will be reading soon, if she isn’t already. And other kids can be cruel.

Both parties last week signed off on a deal, the terms of which are hush-hush — with The Post reporting that Thurman won primary custody of Luna, and Busson is entitled to monthly visits.

Was it necessary to dredge up all this filth in public?

Thurman lawyer Eleanor Alter didn’t return a call. But Busson’s lawyer, Peter Bronstein, who brought the case on behalf of his client, applauded open courts.

“It is important in America that we have a system of justice in which one party can’t deny a party who seeks something, whether it be custody or money, a fair hearing before an impartial judge,” he told me.

“Here we had a situation where a father felt the only way he could have fair access to his child and play a fair part in her life is to go to court. It’s a good thing for the court to intervene if the parties can’t do it themselves.”

There has to be a better way. When will children stop being used as weapons in adult hate matches?

I fear it will never happen.

©2007-2024 Andrea Peyser and; No Reuse without permission.
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