Angelina Jolie has won her legal battle with Brad Pitt after a judge they hired in their divorce case was disqualified.
The two actors have been fighting in court over custody of their children since Jolie filed for divorce in 2016.
In May this year, a private judge named John ruled that Pitt should be awarded joint custody.
But on Friday, the California court granted Jolie’s appeal and removed the judge from the case.
In its decision, the appeals court said Judge Ouderkirk had failed to disclose his business relationship with Pitt’s lawyers.
The court said this was an “ethical breach” that could cast doubt on “the judge’s ability to be impartial”.
The ruling means that the court case regarding the couple’s five minor children may have to start over before a new judge.
In the US, private judges are often hired to settle disputes between divorced celebrities for privacy reasons.
A spokeswoman for Pitt said the ruling was based on a technicality.
The spokeswoman said the “factual evidence” that led Judge to make the custody ruling in May had not changed.
Julie’s representatives have not yet commented on Friday’s decision. But after the custody decision in May, a source told AFP that Julie felt she and the children had been “denied a fair trial”.
Jolie criticised Judge Ouderkirk decision not to allow her children to testify at the custody hearing.
The custody battle involves the couple’s five youngest children: Pax, 17, Zahara, 16, Shiloh, 15, and twins Vivian and Knox, 13.
The eldest child, Maddox, 19, is not affected by the custody ruling.
Jolie and Pitt’s custody agreement, announced in 2018, appears to have fallen through.
The Hollywood stars, affectionately known as “Brangelina” by their fans, met on the set of the action film Mr. & Mrs. Smith in 2004. They dated for 10 years before marrying in 2014.
But the couple split in September 2016 after two years of marriage, with Jolie citing “irreconcilable differences”.
Shortly before Jolie filed for divorce, Pitt was investigated for possible child abuse, but he was later cleared of the charges. The couple was legally declared single in 2019.
The marriage is Jolie’s third, following actors Billy Bob Thornton and Jonny Lee Miller, while Pitt was previously married to Friends star Jennifer Aniston.