In a previous blog, we discussed the brewing custody battle between Madonna and Guy Ritchie over their 15-year-old son, Rocco. While that post emphasized that Rocco's desire to live with his father would likely be given great weight due to his age, this does not mean that a custody modification is in the bag. Currently, there is an Order requiring Rocco to return to his mother in New York. As of the writing of this post, he has not complied with this order. This could be a huge problem for Ritchie, especially if New York has similar custody laws to Georgia.
In Georgia custody cases, the Judge must "exercise discretion to look to and determine solely what is for the best interest of the child and what will best promote the child's welfare and happiness and to make his or her award accordingly." O.C.G.A. § 19-9-3(a)(2). The Judge may consider any relevant factor, but specifically listed for consideration is "[t]he willingness and ability of each of the parents to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent, consistent with the best interest of the child." O.C.G.A. § 19-9-3(a)(3)(N). Thus, each parent has to show that he/she can constructively co-parent with the other. By not forcing Rocco to return to New York in compliance with the court Order, Ritchie is showing a refusal to co-parent. Not only is he failing to work with Madonna, his actions are in complete defiance of a court order governing the case. Rocco's age in this respect is irrelevant. He is still a minor and, thus, is bound by the custody order. There are no allegations of abuse or any other issue that could possibly warrant a refusal to return. Nor is this a permanent Order. Rather, this is a temporary Order put in place while the parties work out a more permanent solution.
Rocco and Ritchie simply do not like Madonna's parenting style and Rocco prefers to live with his father. This desire is not sufficient to disregard the Order. If Ritchie does not make Rocco return to New York, he could lose custody simply because he has shown an inability to co-parent. The better solution would be for Rocco and Ritchie to both return to New York, present their wishes at the hearing, and hope for a permanent resolution that will meet their desire to live together in London.