Over the past few weeks, the papers have been full of stories about the ‘custody dispute’ between pop superstar Madonna and her ex-husband Guy Ritchie over their 15-year-old son, Rocco.
Madonna wants the teenager to live with her in the US; her film director ex-partner wants Rocco to live with him, his new wife and their family in London.
According to reports, the pair – who divorced several years ago – are due in New York Supreme Court in early March to settle the arrangements.
Rocco, who spent some months on the road with his mother during her Rebel Heart tour last year, left the US for London in December and then – so the media says – refused to return to the States for the holidays. A judge then apparently ordered that the teen return to the US to sort out his living arrangements.
Since then, Madonna has let it be known, mostly through messages she’s posted on the social media site Instagram, that she wants Rocco back living with her.
Without wishing to comment too much on a specific and on-going court case – the details of which we don’t know – it does strike me that what seems to be missing here is something that is overlooked or ignored in many similar situations: the wishes of the child. Especially where the child is 15 years old and can clearly make their feelings and preferences known.
Divorce and separation can be very traumatic for children, which is why their needs and wishes should always be at the forefront of any settlement. If a child who is old enough to state a clear preference makes it clear he or she will be happier living with either Mum or Dad, then parents should do all they can to make the appropriate arrangements.
Sadly, what too often happens is that parents use children as a way to ‘get at’ their estranged partner. Rather than acting in the youngsters’ best interests, they treat them as possessions to be argued over.
No loving parent wants to see less of their son or daughter, and understandably will be hurt if their child or children make it clear they want to live with the other parent. But acting in child’s best interests can sometimes mean allowing them to live where they choose. It might be heart-breaking, but it is the ultimate expression of parental love.