Brangelina: Close Encounters of the "Ex-" Kind

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Brad Pitt's purchase last week of the funky $1.1 million house next door to Brangelina's L.A. compound (pictured) helped fuel reports of an impending split: After all, the hunky actor would not be the first celebrity dad to hang tight for the sake of the kids.

Pitt pals Madonna and Guy Ritchie bought a $9 million adjacent townhouse in London when their relationship hit the skids, while Bruce Willis and Demi Moore snapped up facing estates in Hailey, Idaho for the sake of their three kids.

In New York, Woody Allen and Mia Farrow famously dwelled across Central Park from each other pre-and-post rupture. And Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman settled down on the same Manhattan street after their 2004 split, the better to co-parent their two kids.

Hawke told People magazine that the arrangement is uniquely suited for Manhattan, where the population density limits close encounters of the ex- kind.

"If we lived down the street from each other in Minneapolis, I'd have to watch every car go in and out of the driveway. I'd know how late she stayed out," Hawke told People.

Experts agree that not everyone can handle living next to their ex. Jealous and angry types need not apply - for the kids' sake as well as their own.

"It's hard to go out for the morning paper and see your husband's new girlfriend going out for the paper down the block," says Terry Real, the founder of The Relational Life Institute, which holds workshops for couples and ex-couples around the country.

"You don't want to introduce new people into your kids' lives for about three to 12 months, depending on how long you were married, so you also have to be prepared to sneak your date through the back door, and basically still act like you're having an affair even though you're not," says Real.

But for children, there's plenty of upside to keeping the 'rents close.

"The closer the parents can be, and the closer the children's routine is the way it was before the breakup, the happier the kids will be," says Real.

He cautions against blurring boundaries too much.

"You don't want to say mommy and daddy are splitting up, and then act like one big happy family, with mom or dad just dropping by," says Real. It's fine when dad's come over to help with homework and bedtime stories on a schedule like Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Ideally, the other parent would be in the kitchen making lunches or better yet, out with friends.

Successful divided-we-stand couples often work out the details in mediation, says Jill Cohen, an L.A.-based family mediator. She notes that while many amicable ex's are intrigued by establishing a homestead-next-door, fewer can afford to do so in the marital neighborhood.

At a minimum, she says, "try to be within a 15 minute driving radius so it's easy for children to go back and forth without doing a crazy amount of traveling," says Cohen. Proximity is just as important when kids get older and may want some unscheduled time with parent, she notes.


Teri Karush Rogersis the founder & editorial director of BrickUnderground.com, a website for New York City apartment dwellers.
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