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Madonna and child are locked in an unholy family custody row

By Lindy McDowell

Published 30/12/2015

Tug of love: Madonna and Rocco, her son by British film director Guy Ritchie
Tug of love: Madonna and Rocco, her son by British film director Guy Ritchie

From the original Christmas story featuring Madonna and Child to the 2015 version - a modern day parable starring Madonna and estranged child. The multi-millionaire pop star is reported to be currently involved in a transatlantic custody battle over her son Rocco (15), whose father is movie director Guy Ritchie.

Just before Christmas, a court hearing in New York ruled that Rocco, who apparently wants to stay in London with his dad and Ritchie's new wife Jacqui Ainsley, will have to return to New York before the new school term begins there.

Once back in Manhattan - and I'm quoting here from various reports - he must talk to his mother "before deciding which parent he prefers".

Did the judge actually use those words? That exact, cruel phrase - "which parent he prefers". I'd be amazed if they did.

Because at age 15, as any custody case judge will know, most teenager's choice about where he wants to live has usually less to do with which parent he "prefers" (put bluntly, in many cases the answer would be neither) and more to do with where his friends are and, thus, where his social life is centred.

Reports speculate that Rocco has spurned his mum Madonna because she posted online pictures of him which he found a bit cringey. If that was cast iron grounds for estrangement from a parent, half the kids in the land would currently have a case. And she's also alleged to have been "strict" with him. Fifteen-year-old thinks his mum is a bit strict with him? Now there's a turn-up for the books ...

What this case really comes down to, despite a rock 'n' roll lifestyle, two massive egos, separate homes in London and New York and an ocean in between, is a hardly unusual case of family break-up and a sadly familiar wrangle over who gets the kids.

Surely it could have been sorted out without going to court? You'd think ...

But then, as in so many cases, people let themselves get wound up, heels get dug in, nobody is giving ground without a fight.

What sets this saga apart is the high profile of both parents and the inevitable attention - and analysis - it therefore attracts.

A less stellar couple might fall back on the usual old "He said, she said, I said" routine, griping to mates and maybe even the odd bit of Facebook savagery thrown in.

But with Madonna, her ex and his missus it's over to Instagram.

Madonna posted sweet pictures of all four of her children over the festive period, including one of Rocco describing him movingly as "the Sun-shine of my life".

Meanwhile, tellingly, the new Mrs Ritchie posted a picture from her summer wedding featuring herself, Guy and their three young children, along with Guy and Madonna's other son David and Rocco himself.

"Happy Holidays from the Ritchies" read the caption.

You don't need to be a Relate counsellor to feel that maybe, in the circumstances, Mrs Ritchie might have shown more sensitivity in her choice of seasonal greetings card.

Given the fact that his mother was spending Christmas without her son, there did seem to be a bit of unnecessary knife-twisting there.

Whether this was deliberate or just tactless, it's hard to know. For the thing is that, as with the vast majority of marital break-ups and resultant custody battles, the rest of us are rarely fully party to what has gone on.

Who's in the wrong? Who's in the right?

Who's to say?

But you would think it shouldn't be beyond the adults involved here to sit down together, to set aside their differences and to put the child first (even though, at 15, Rocco may not consider himself as such). But a child he is still.

And the one thing that we can say with certainty is that, as always, it's the child who's in the middle.

Name storms after real blowhards

Is it just me or do you get the feeling that since we started giving storms human names there seems to be more of them? Last year by this time, it felt like we'd had only a couple of bad ones.

Already this year, following Eva's destruction, we're now up to "F". The way we're going we'll soon be through the entire alphabet.

Maybe if we called the next tranche of storms after politicians it might invoke a more personal response ... Amber, Boris, Chris, Dave, George ... and, with that, a quicker, better relief effort.

Cold callers now out of this world

A 79-year-old lady was startled to discover that the man who'd phoned her over Christmas (he'd got a wrong number) was astronaut Tim Peake.

Well, you would be. Particularly if you thought he might have reversed the charges.

"Hello, is that planet Earth?" the spaceman had asked.

"No," the lady replied. She admits this was "technically incorrect" but had assumed he was a drunk looking for a nightclub called Planet Earth.

What else was she to think? That they'd started doing PPI calls from Mars?

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