Amid ongoing custody litigation in both London and New York, Mr Justice MacDonald has ruled that the English proceedings could be halted to allow for compromise between the parties or continuation of US proceedings. The crux of the matter is that Madonna and Guy Ritchie have been unable to agree where fifteen-year old son Rocco should live. Instead of opting to make decisions regarding the teen’s welfare, the judge of the Family Division of the High Court simply wanted the largely publicised legal action to draw to a close – urging the former spouses to reach an amicable resolution to the dispute.
The judge pointed out that it would be a “tragedy” to keep prolonging this kind of tension in Rocco’s life. Indeed, he does not deserve to be dragged along any more than he already has. It has been an exhausting conflict – one that seems to have been blown out of proportion. In Judge MacDonald’s words: “At the root of these proceedings… is a temporary breakdown in trust. For all the media coverage, comment and analysis, this is a case born out of circumstances that arise for countless separated parents the world over.” Inevitable celebrity appeal aside, at its core this case is an archetype of the majority of post-divorce family situations – the instinctive overprotection of the child that manifests in doubt, blame and irrationality.
Court hearings will continue in the United States. On this note of cross-country family law cases, it is thought-provoking to look at their broader relevance to current affairs, i.e. the idea that a Brexit, or the departure of the United Kingdom from membership in the European Union, would apparently aggravate bitter child custody battles. Proponents of this belief argue that EU treaties are responsible for ensuring the procedural clarity of which country’s courts possess jurisdiction over a particular divorce case. Without such established laws that have been governing the matter for a long time now, fights about appropriate jurisdiction will become much more disorganised and much more costly. The impact could be significant for many families in the future as we are in an increasingly globalised, increasingly interconnected world.
But in the meantime, we should keep our focus on the present. After all, when it comes to child custody cases it may be that very excessive fixation on the long run that tempts parties to overlook the importance of the emotional nuances and subtleties that are right in front of their eyes. Madonna for one has expressed her wish to “heal the wounds” opened by the dispute – a good indicator of imminent diplomacy, composure and recovery somewhere around the corner.
Isabel is a guest blogger for Grayfords. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science with a minor in Economics from Barnard College of Columbia University in New York City. She is currently pursuing the Graduate Diploma in Law at The University of Law in London.