Hello and welcome to the post chocolate fuelled Easter Weekend blog.
Separated parents often find that organising visits between non-resident parents (i.e. the parents who don’t have full time care of the children) and their kids during school holidays can be difficult. There’s agreeing which part of the holiday the children spend with the parents, where they’re going and when they’re coming back. Usually it all goes relatively well (bar the occasional barbed comments and missed check in calls with the kids) but sometimes it does not. And then what can you do?
Case in point the very public Madonna / Guy Ritchie Court proceedings in London about their son Rocco. In December last year Rocco left his mother’s Rebel Heart tour to visit his father in London. However when it came time to return to America to live with his mother, Rocco refused. Madonna immediately issued proceedings in New York for custody of Rocco and London under the Hague Convention claiming that her ex-husband and Rocco’s father, Guy Ritchie, had effectively kidnapped Rocco and she wanted him returned. Matters where further complicated by the fact that Rocco, being 15, asked to be joined as part of the proceedings and therefore mother, father and son all have their own legal teams! Rocco, it is said, does not want to return to the US and wishes to remain in London where he is attending school.
Although this was initially a claim for the return of a child following a kidnapping, it has now become clear that this case is more about where the child should live. Madonna therefore applied for the proceedings in London to be stopped and the US proceedings to take over – no doubt because she believes the US judges will find in her favour and order Rocco back to America. Mr Justice MacDonald in his judgement of 21st March, however, did not rule on whether Rocco should be returned to New York as the parents had agreed at an earlier hearing to let Rocco remain in the UK until a final decision had been made. Instead the judge has encouraged the parents to reach an agreement. This seems to also be the view of New York Judge Deborah Kaplan who indicated in the custody hearing on 2nd March that the parents should try to sort this out themselves.
In situations such as these, where emotions and fears are high and it isn’t simply about the desires of the parents but also the wishes and feelings of the children, it is important to know everyone’s legal position and then to consider what the best next steps will be. If a child has been taken abroad and not returned at the end of the holiday, then an emergency application for the child’s immediate return might be the most appropriate first step. Negotiations through solicitors will also be very important as even if the situation cannot be settled a temporary middle ground may be reached. Alternative Dispute Resolution methods such as collaborative law or mediation may also be very helpful in such situations once the child’s safety and care have been resolved in the interim.
All in all, it is always best to agree beforehand what the holiday/ care arrangements for the child is going to be and to seek legal advice if there is ever any uncertainty.