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Madonna and Guy Ritchie have again been embroiled in a legal dispute. This time they are fighting about the care arrangements for their 15 year old son, Rocco who failed to return to his mother in New York in December following a visit to his father in the UK. It has been reported that Rocco does not wish to return to the United States at this time.

Madonna made an application to the High Court in London for Rocco to return to New York. She had also started proceedings in New York, following which the New York judge directed that Rocco return. Rather than pursuing applications in two different countries, before two judges with two sets of lawyers, Madonna applied to the English Court last month to withdraw her application. It was agreed by all concerned that the New York Court has the power to make Orders in this case. After much legal argument about whether Madonna technically required the court’s permission to withdraw her application, the judge decided permission was necessary and granted it, adding that “it would not serve the ends of justice to compel a party to pursue an application” that they wish to bring to an end.

It is unclear as to whether Madonna intends to pursue the fight across the pond or whether she will withdraw her application in New York as well. Rocco’s lawyers reported that what he wants most of all is that all litigation between his parents ends. Rocco will be 16 years old in August, after which the Courts will no longer have the power to make an Order for his return to the United States in any event. Recognising this, the English judge concluded her judgment last month pleading with the parents to “seek, and to find an amicable resolution to the dispute between them”.

Family judges will always consider the wishes and feelings of a child. The extent to how much this will determine the outcome of proceedings will depend on the age and understanding of the child. For example, if proceedings concern a teenager, the court will need a good reason to go against the child’s wishes.

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