From amicable to feisty, the custody battle between Madonna and Guy Ritchie has recently taken a turn after the pair's 15-year-old son, Rocco, announced that he wishes to remain with Ritchie in London permanently.
The ongoing conflict started after Rocco, who was traveling with his New York City based mother on her Rebel Heart tour for three months this past fall, got bored and left to go stay with Ritchie in the U.K. When the teen refused to return to his mother's custody for the holidays, Madonna appeared in a New York City courtroom, where the judge ordered that the teen return the U.S. pending the outcome of a hearing to take place on February 3, 2016. However, Rocco has refused to return home and sources are reporting that he has even missed school since staying with his father.
Rocco's defiance places Ritchie in a delicate situation, as he now faces the possibility of being found in contempt of the judge's order compelling Rocco back to the States. If this custody case were taking place in Pennsylvania, Ritchie should show that he has made significant efforts to comply with the judge's order. For example, if Ritchie purchased a plane ticket for Rocco's return and he refused to get on the flight the courts would likely not find Ritchie in contempt. However, if Ritchie is supporting Rocco's decision to remain in the U.K., then it is possible that he could be found in contempt, which may result in Ritchie being sanctioned with fines and possibly less custody of Rocco.
The schooling situation is also a double edged sword. If Ritchie enrolls Rocco in school in England despite an outstanding order that he be returned the U.S., this could support a contempt finding. However, on the other hand, if Rocco is refusing to return to the U.S., then Ritchie's failure to ensure that he receives a proper education while in the U.K. could reflect poorly on him in the hearing to be held on February 3rd.
At hearing, it is likely the court will hear from Rocco. In Pennsylvania, although there is no set age at which a child may testify, the court will take into account the well-reasoned preferences of the child, while also taking into account the child's age and maturity levels. For example, the preferences of an eight-year-old who wants to live with their mother because their father is never around, drinks and yells a lot will be weighted more heavily by the courts than that of a sixteen-year-old who wants to live with his father because his mother does not let him play Xbox as much as he wishes. Therefore, if Rocco's desire to remain with his father stem from a desire to have stability in his life that his mother can't offer while she's on tour, Rocco's desires could be weighted heavily by the courts.
If you have questions regarding a custody matter, call the custody attorneys at McMorrow Law for a free initial consultation at 724-940-0100.