When Courtney Love temporarily lost of custody of daughter Frances Bean Cobain last week, it was just the latest in a series of ups and downs in a mother-daughter relationship that has been fraught with drama since Frances was an infant.
Today, despite the suicide of her father, Kurt Cobain, in 1994, and her mother’s past struggles with addiction and run-ins with the law, Frances is a “totally together” 17-year-old, a family friend told PEOPLE earlier this year. “She’s really grounded and is really fun and sweet,” adds the friend. “Courtney is extremely proud of her and would do anything to ensure her well-being.”
For now, a Los Angeles judge has ruled that Frances will be in better hands with Kurt’s mom Wendy O Connor, 62, and his younger sister, Kimberly Cobain, 39, who were appointed as Frances’s temporary guardians on Friday, with another hearing scheduled for Feb. 10.
Here s a look back at the mother-daughter duo’s highs and lows.
In 1992, when Frances was just a few weeks old, child welfare officers removed her from her parents’ home for a short period of time following the publication of a Vanity Fair article that alleged Love had used drugs during her pregnancy. The investigation was eventually dismissed and Frances returned home.
Eleven years later, Love lost custody of her daughter again after being arrested for an attempted break-in at her ex-boyfriend’s home. She also overdosed on painkillers and made a suicide threat. Kurt’s mother was appointed as Frances’s guardian until Love regained custody almost two years later following a stint in rehab.
While Love’s former attorney Keith A. Fink told PEOPLE on Monday that Love’s latest loss of custody “is simply about Frances preferring to live with her grandmother at this time,” Kurt Cobain’s uncle, Charles Fradenburg, says Kurt s family has long wanted to look after Frances.
“[My sister] has been trying to get custody of Frances for quite a few years,” Fradenburg told TMZ. “Courtney is not fit to take care of Frances, she can barely take care of herself … This is a wonderful thing for the family.”
Nannies and Chauffeurs
As a teen, Frances – who has attended high school in L.A. and once counted Tallulah Willis as a classmate – has explored a variety of interests including musical theater (she s performed in Hair and played Rizzo in Grease), photography and journalism (she has written for the Rolling Stone Web site). She says she loves Sex and the City, collects shoes and buys vintage clothing on eBay.
In January 2006, Frances described Love, 45, as “an awesome mom” but lamented their life in the spotlight.
“Sometimes I do think I wish our lives weren’t so hustle and bustle and tabloid and all that stuff wasn’t going on. Sometimes I wish I wasn t so much at home alone and that it wasn t about nannies and chauffeurs and all that stuff,” Frances told I-D magazine. “But then my friends say ‘Gee, I wish I had your life.’ Sometimes I think, ‘Gee, I wish I had your life, too.’ We all play that game.”
Love has attended fashion parties with Frances, threw her a goth-themed Sweet 16 at L.A.’s House of Blues (featuring black velvet invites with coffin artwork and catering by In-N-Out Burger), and was by her side when the teenager had her nose pierced. Love admitted to a UK magazine in 2007 that raising Frances – who she describes as “a brainiac” – hasn’t been easy. “We get [along] well most of the time but teenagers are hard. Being a single mother is hard,” she said.
The Battle to Come?
On Feb. 10, a judge will decide whether to make Frances’s grandmother whom she has called “the person I respect most out of anybody in the world” and her aunt permanent guardians, until Frances turns 18 in August. Love has the option of contesting the guardianship if she chooses.
The singer, meanwhile, has taken to her Facebook page to share her feelings. “Welcome to the hidden, secret, ugly, white-trash, money grubbing side of the family,” she posted on Thursday (punctuation corrected by PEOPLE). “Please don’t judge the Bean by it. She’s a great person, they’re just gross.”
“Obviously there’s infighting over who has Frances’s best interest at heart,” says Jeffrey S. Cohen, a L.A. probate lawyer not involved with the case. “This appears to be the grandmother and aunt’s way of removing Courtney out of Frances’s life for now. If they didn’t, Courtney would’ve had every right to prevent Frances from leaving.”
As for what’s at stake financially: “It all depends on the terms of Frances’s trust funds and whether she’s currently receiving any of that money,” Cohen adds. “Trust fund terms are generally private [unless contested in court].” A person typically receives trust fund money at the ages of 18, 21, 25, or 30, or whenever it’s needed, Cohen explains.
So for now, the guardians can decide where Frances lives, who she associates with, what doctors she sees, whether she gets any allowance, and whether she can drive or any other travel issues.
Ironically, Love herself fought for, and won, legal emancipation from her own parents while she was still a teenager. So why didn’t Frances follow in her mother’s footsteps, instead of opting to be placed in the care of her relatives? Says Cohen: “Perhaps she simply wasn’t ready for that.”
• Reporting by KEN LEE, JOEY BARTOLOMEO and ELIZABETH LEONARD