Entertainment & Arts

Judge rules on Madonna custody dispute

Madonna and Guy Ritchie Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Rocco was born during Madonna's 10-year marriage to British film director Guy Ritchie

Madonna has been granted permission to end the British legal action over the custody of her 15-year-old son, Rocco.

The singer is in dispute with her ex-husband Guy Ritchie over where the teenager should live.

Hearings have been held in both New York and London, but Madonna recently asked London's High Court to bring the English proceedings to a close.

The pop star told the judge she wanted to "heal the wounds" opened by the dispute.

Mr Justice MacDonald ruled on Monday the English proceedings could be halted.

Rocco had lived with Madonna since her divorce from Guy Ritchie in 2008 - but he abruptly left his mother while on tour in Europe late last year.

He then moved in with his father and step-mother, model Jacqui Ainsley, in London and enrolled in school. Madonna had accused Ritchie of "illegally retaining" the teenager.

The case will now return to New York, where a judge ruled last December that Rocco should be returned to his mother's custody.

That ruling was ignored - and Madonna's lawyers suggested Ritchie be arrested for contempt of court and compelled to appear in New York.

State Supreme Court Justice Deborah Kaplan dismissed the plan, and implored the parents to reach an amicable solution.

"No one is disrupting his household other than the inability of the parents to reach a resolution," she said. "If they cannot resolve this matter then eventually the court will."

She also scolded the couple for seeking to resolve the matter through the courts, and urged them to take "this tremendous pressure" off their son.

"Frankly, both parties here have chosen to live their lives in a very public way, and may welcome the exposure, but the child has not," she said.

"I urge them to consider what is the best interests of their son - which may be to remove him from the spotlight."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Madonna wrapped up her seven-month-long world tour in Sydney over the weekend

After the hearing in New York, Madonna's lawyers filed a motion at the family division of London's High Court under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

There, the judge echoed the words of his New York counterpart, urging Ritchie and Madonna to reach an "amicable settlement" to this "highly unfortunate and deeply regrettable" family dispute.

Madonna later sought to withdraw her application. Judge Alistair MacDonald said he would consider the evidence before deciding whether he should allow English proceedings to draw to a close - or whether he should make decisions about Rocco's welfare.

The court was told the affair had been upsetting for the teenager.

"Having this order over his head is stressful and upsetting to him," said Rocco's lawyer, Ellen Sigal.

Handing down his ruling on Monday, the judge again appealed to the family to resolve their differences.

"At the root of these proceedings... is a temporary breakdown in trust," he said.

"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.

"I renew, one final time, my plea for the parents to seek, and to find, an amicable resolution to the dispute between them."

Neither Madonna nor Ritchie attended the hearing. Lawyers for the couple said they had both outlined proposals for negotiation.

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