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Lawyer: Pitt and Jolie sue over split claim

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Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have begun legal action against a British tabloid that reported the celebrity couple was going to split, a lawyer acting on their behalf confirmed Monday.

Keith Schillings, of London-based Schillings lawyers, said in a statement that the couple had begun legal proceedings against the News of The World, a Sunday tabloid and Britain’s highest selling newspaper.

He said the newspaper had made “false and intrusive allegations” when it reported Jan. 24 that Pitt and Jolie had agreed to separate, to divide assets worth 205 million pounds ($320 million) and had made arrangements regarding the custody of their six children.

Lawyers for the couple lodged a claim at London’s High Court on Monday to begin a legal case against the newspaper, Schillings said.

“The News of the World has failed to meet our clients’ reasonable demands for a retraction of and apology for these false and intrusive allegations which have now been widely republished by mainstream news outlets. We have advised them to bring proceedings which they have now done,” Schillings said.

He also said Sorrell Trope, a high profile divorce lawyer in Los Angeles, had denied claims she had been in contact with the couple, as had been reported.

“I have had no contact from … Angelina Jolie and/or Brad Pitt,” Trope wrote, according to a letter sent to the couple’s lawyers and partially quoted in Schillings’ statement. “I have never met … your clients or had any involvement with either of them. The forgoing is true with respect to all other members of this firm.”

Hayley Barlow, spokeswoman for the News of The World, declined to comment on the couple’s decision to sue the newspaper.

British laws governing libel have traditionally been seen as friendlier to claimants than those in the United States. British law places the burden of proof on the publisher, unlike libel laws in the United States, which require proof that an article was both false and published maliciously.

On Sunday, Pitt, 46, and Jolie, 34, attended the Super Bowl in Miami with their 8-year-old son, Maddox. They watched the game together from a private box at Sun Life Stadium.

The couple have ties to New Orleans, the home city of the Saints, who beat the Indianapolis Colts. Pitt and Jolie bought a French Quarter mansion in 2007, the same year Pitt founded the Make It Right organization to build houses for low-income residents who lost their homes during Hurricane Katrina.

Pitt and Jolie have been partners since they began a relationship while working on the 2005 film “Mr. & Mrs. Smith.” Pitt was previously married to Jennifer Aniston; they divorced in 2005 after five years of marriage.

Jolie was briefly married to Billy Bob Thornton before divorcing in 2003. She was also married to British actor Jonny Lee Miller before they divorced in 1999.

Including Maddox, whom Jolie adopted from Cambodia in 2002, the couple are raising six children: Zahara Marley, Shiloh Nouvel, Pax Thien, Knox Leon and Vivienne Marcheline.

AP Entertainment Writer Jake Coyle in New York contributed to this report

© 2010 Associated Press. Displayed by permission. All rights reserved.

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