July 2, 2008 — -- In a far cry from the catwalks she's used to, supermodel Christie Brinkley calmly walked into a New York courtroom today to meet estranged husband Peter Cook on the first day of their divorce hearing that could settle, among other things, custody of the couple's two children.
It has been two years since the 54-year-old former Victoria Secret model began a very public battle with Cook, 49, after revelations that he was having an affair with his then 18-year-old assistant, Diana Bianchi.
The battle took on a surprising twist last month when Brinkley won the right to open the proceedings to the public. While Brinkley believes the publicity could be an advantage in seeking a settlement, experts said it could be detrimental to the couple's children --10-year-old Sailor and 13-year-old Jack.
"If children see their mother and father attacking each other in a public divorce situation, what does it teach the children?" Dr. Michael Bradley, author of "Heart and Soul of the Next Generation," told "Good Morning America" today. "It teaches the children that the parents are not really adults. The parents are just large children.
"To go into a situation where there's a war between two parents saying terrible things about each other ... is a disaster. Now the kids have to develop a relationship with these two people they very much love, and they can't see these two people they love hate each other."
In a statement through his attorney, Norman Sheresky, Cook used Brinkley's fight for a public trial as an example of "bad parenting," an allegation he has made in the past.
But , according to Brinkley's lawyer, Robert Cohen, the supermodel has always wanted to settle privately and out of court and is now using the media to put pressure on Cook to do just that, as well as to tell "the truth."
"Peter Cook has consistently courted media attention to intentionally malign Ms. Brinkley," Brinkley's attorney told "Good Morning America."
"Cook doesn't want the truth to come out. He's mortified by it, as well he should be. ... The truth will be told."
One key witness in the trial will be Cook's former assistant Bianchi, who told ABC News that she will be in court later today.
In addition to custody of the children, the couple will be fighting over three boats and several properties in the Hamptons on New York's Long Island.
The hearing was already moved into a larger courtroom in anticipation of the heavy media attention it is likely to receive.
Jacalyn Barnett, a matrimonial lawyer, told "Good Morning America" today that she believes celebrity divorces are "fascinating because they're a way that everyday people can relate to celebrities.
"Despite the wealth of possibilities that a celebrity has, they experience the same sadness and difficulty that all of us have in human relationships, only on a larger scale, in a bigger arena."