Bob Geldof’s fury at the Family Court
Last week musician Bob Geldof criticised the Family Court’s decision to award primary custody (as it was called at that time) of his children Fifi, Peaches and Pixie to their mother Paula Yates after their separation in 1995, calling it a “disgrace”.
Speaking after the death of his daughter Peaches – of a heroin overdose at the age of 25 – and his daughter Fifi’s public admission that she has suffered from clinical depression since the age of 11, Geldof stated that he “blames [the] entire family court system for so much of [their] subsequent pain”. He told Saga Magazine that after initially attempting to secure shared custody of his three children with ex-wife Paula Yates, he was only awarded visitation rights on a bi-weekly basis, despite previously spending “every single day” with the trio. Geldof suggested that this decision stopped him from taking sufficient care of his children, and prevented him from protecting them from harm. “All I wanted was to see my kids 50% of the time. They’re my children! I wouldn’t have had them if I didn’t want the privilege of bringing them up and I wanted to keep my kids away from this decadent world Paula had fallen into. The courts of course prevented that as much as possible,” he said.
Rights for divorced fathers
A prominent promoter of the rights of divorced fathers, and a vociferous endorser of the controversial organisation Fathers 4 Justice, Geldof suggested that the decision of the Court to award Yates primary custody in 1995 was due to a general gender bias towards women as the preferred full time parent. This typecasting, he maintained, continues to result in what he controversially described as “state-sanctioned kidnapping”. Research from the Ministry of Justice 2011 Family Justice Review found whilst there is “a perception that the system favours mothers over fathers” perpetuated by common court outcomes, there is “no evidence that the courts are biased against non resident parents”. The report emphasised that the Family Court makes child custody decisions on what it determines to be in the child’s best interests: s1(1) of the Children Act 1989 states that “the child’s welfare shall be the court’s paramount consideration”.
In 1998, Geldof was awarded primary custody of his daughters. After Paula Yates’ heroin-related death in 2000, he was also awarded custody of Yates’ daughter with the late INXS singer Michael Hutchence, after the courts determined it to be in her best interests to live with Geldof and her half-sisters instead of Hutchence’s family.
This was a guest post by Sara Zadeh who is interested in all aspects of Family Law. She studied Criminology and Applied Psychology and has completed the Graduate Diploma in Law and Legal Practice Course. Sara is currently volunteering at the Citizens Advice Bureau and Disability Advice Centre.