Madonna issued an application in the High Court against Guy Ritchie in December 2015, claiming that he had wrongfully retained their oldest son, Rocco, in the jurisdiction of England and Wales past an agreed date. She thus sought a summary return of Rocco to New York, United States, after an unsuccessful attempt at mediation.
Rocco was then aged 15 years and four months and already separately represented in a case between his parents in New York. The first matter that Mr Justice McDonald had to adjudicate upon was therefore, inevitably, whether to join Rocco as a party to the English case. He considered the background history, noting that Madonna was granted permission in 2009 to permanently remove Rocco and his younger brother to the United States to live with her and he further considered that Rocco had instructed his solicitors that he did not wish to return to New York at the time. His father supported the application but his mother did not, arguing that Rocco’s wishes and feelings could be adequately voiced through a Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (CAFCASS) Officer.
Rocco was however joined as a party, with the Judge commenting that he was a mature, articulate and reflective young man. It was also clear that the outcome of the substantive application would affect Rocco the most and he was at the upper age limit for Hague Convention proceedings in any event.
The final hearing in the case was on 10 and 11 March 2016, when Mr Justice McDonald dealt with Madonna’s application for permission to withdraw her substantive application and also an application from News Group Newspapers and Associated Newspapers Limited, for their reporters to publish his previous Judgment and everything that had been said during the final hearing.
All parties having accepted that the New York Court had jurisdiction of the matter, Madonna sought to withdraw her application, submitting that she did not require permission to do so. The Judge decided that she did need the Court’s permission to do this, having regard to the Family Procedure Rules that govern this issue and the relevant test that applies and she was given permission to withdraw her application.
Mr Justice McDonald went on to decide whether his Judgments should be published and ruled that they should, “balancing the competing Art 8 and Art 10 rights” but should be without anonymization or not at all. Reporting restrictions continued to apply as to what could be reported from the actual proceedings.
The Judge concluded with stating that the situation had arisen from a basic break down in trust between the parents and that they should still work towards finding an amicable resolution to the dispute.
The two Judgments referred to can be found at http://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=se0&s=madonna