At the end of March, a British judge pushed Madonna and ex-husband Guy Ritchie to reach an agreement in the child custody dispute they have been waging over 15-year-old son Rocco.
Madonna’s Bitter Child Custody Battle
The custody dispute began in December, and as the judge warned, continuing the dispute might mean risking missing out on the last years of Rocco’s childhood.
“As I observed during the course of the hearing, summer does not last forever. The boy very quickly becomes the man. It would be a very great tragedy for Rocco if any more of the precious and fast receding days of his childhood were to be taken up by this dispute,” wrote U.K. High Court Judge Alistair MacDonald in a ruling regarding the case.
“Far better for each of his parents to spend that time enjoying, in turn, the company of the mature, articulate and reflective young man who is their son and who is a very great credit to them both.”
The judge went on to rule that Madonna drop the legal proceedings that are happening in England so that the custody dispute can be continued only in the U.S. judicial system. The two are already in the process of hashing out a custody agreement through the New York court system.
The judge did not provide a further ruling about whether or not Rocco should return to New York to be with his mother, but he did return Rocco’s passport should the teen decide to visit his mother.
The judge’s March ruling concluded proceedings that began on March 3, when he considered whether or not Madonna should withdraw her launched proceedings in the U.K. under the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction.
“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,” the judge wrote in his ruling, adding, “I renew, one final time, my plea for the parents to seek, and to find an amicable resolution to the dispute between them.”
Dispute Began in December
The custody dispute issues began in December when Rocco left his mother’s Rebel Heart Tour to live with his father in England, but then, despite a judge’s order refused to return to his mother in New York for the holidays.
In the meantime, all parties agreed that Rocco will remain in London until his parents are able to come to a custody agreement. A tentative hearing has been scheduled for June 1 if no agreement has been reached prior to that date.
Child Custody in California
The fact that child custody battles can be true “battles” is the same across the pond, in New York, and in every state. But what’s not the same across all states are the laws regarding child custody. Here are some California specific governing principles surrounding child custody.
Best Interests of Child
California child custody judges consider the best interests of the child when making their decisions regarding custody of the child. A judge is not permitted to give preference to a parent based on their gender. California law has two specific guiding policies when determining a child’s best interests:
- the health, safety, and welfare of children must be a court’s primary concern,
- children benefit from frequent and continuing contact with both parents
- A judge will weigh any relevant factors within these two parameters when making their judgment regarding each individual case.
Joint Physical and Legal Custody
California law favors joint physical and legal custody, but this is only when parents agree to do so. If parents do not agree to this, then the court will develop a parenting plan that is in the child’s best interests. A judge must provide a written explanation if they do not rule in favor of joint custody if a parent requests it.
Parents, of course, are able to put together their own parenting arrangements. In fact, it is required by California law that parents unable to reach an agreement must attend mediation prior to going to court. If the parents are still unable to agree in court, a judge will determine custody.
According to California law, if a child is mature enough to make an intelligent choice regarding custody, then the courts must consider that choice. A specific age is not required by law, but it makes sense that the older the child, the most likely he or she will be able to provide a mature decision.
Types of Child Custody
Full child custody, also known as sole custody, means that all of the parental rights are assigned to one parent. There are two kinds of “sole” custody: sole physical custody (the child lives with the parent) and sole legal custody (the parent has a legal right to make decisions for the child). Usually when people file for sole custody (rather than joint custody) it is because they see the other parent as unfit to take care of the child.
How to File for Full Child Custody
- Talk to a family law attorney. You’ll want to work with an attorney because child custody cases can be difficult. Working with someone familiar with the laws regarding custody will ensure you fill out all the correct paperwork as well as provide all the information needed for the court to award you full custody.
Visit your local court clerk or go online to learn about what petition to file. Working with a family law attorney can help with this, but you should
know that each state has its own laws regarding child custody cases. Here
are a few petitions that may apply:
- Petition to establish custody
- Petition to revise or update a petition that’s already in place
- Petition to establish paternity (if the paternity is questioned you will also need to file a petition that will mandate a paternity test before the custody request is considered) and install custody
- Fill out all of the required paperwork and then file the paperwork at the court. Make sure your attorney reviews everything before you file it. Make two copies – one for you and one for the other parent. The court will keep the original.
- After the petition has been filed you will receive a court or mediation date. Both parents will need to be present in order to reach an agreement. If an agreement cannot be reached, it will need to go before a court.
After you have petitioned for full child custody and have received your child custody case hearing date, you will want to do the next things to prepare for your case to be heard.
Preparing for Your Full Child Custody Hearing
- Serve the other parent with a notice that you have filed a petition for a full child custody. If you are working with a family law attorney (and it is advised you do so for this type of case), they will be able to make arrangements for the other parent to be served with a notification that you are requesting full child custody. If you’re not working with an attorney, you can work with a service company or through the court. Regardless, it’s important that the other parent is made aware that you have filed a full child custody petition.
- Get proof of service. You’ll need proof that the service was performed. You can get this from the person that served the other parent. You’ll need to provide this proof of service to the court.
- Prepare evidence. It’s rare that judges award full custody to a parent, so you’ll need to prove the other parent is unfit. An attorney can help you decide just what you will present in court. This might be police reports, medical bills, any mail or email correspondence, and witnesses to corroborate your case.
What a Judge Considers
During the child custody hearing, a judge will weight various considerations, while namely keeping the best interest of the child in mind. Here are something the judge will use to evaluate a parent’s worthiness:
- Employment history for both parents.
- A parent’s living condition.
- Each parent’s history. A judge will look at a parent’s history to see if there is any known emotional, sexual, physical or drug abuse. If these things are known, you will need to collect any records and evidence of abuse.
- Each parent must prove they are physically and emotionally capable of caring for a child.
Working with a Family Law Attorney
Determining child custody can be an emotionally difficult time. A divorce attorney can help and will advise you on your state’s specific laws. A family law attorney can also advise you on all the aspects that are associated with divorce, not just child custody. You will want to look at your situation and all the aspects of your marriage that will need to be decided and agreed to. A lawyer will be able to advise you on all the things you might not be aware of. This includes marital property division, child custody, and how these decisions will also affect you when it comes to tax season, etc… They can advise on co-parenting schedules and how to work out child custody and alimony agreements. Working with a family law attorney will help you receive a fair child custody agreement or divorce settlement.