After agreeing to divorce, Madonna and Guy Ritchie now must decide where the children will live – with British courts likely siding more with the pop star if it becomes a battle.
The couple have two sons: Rocco, 8, and David, 3. Lourdes, 12, lives in London with mom and stepfather Ritchie, 40, but maintains a close relationship with her father, Carlos Leon, 42, who is based in New York.
If Madonna chooses to move back to New York and wants to take the children with her, British courts would likely rule in her favor, says London-based divorce lawyer Vanessa Lloyd Platt.
“Any application by her to take them out of the jurisdiction would be allowed because she has lived most of her life in America,” she explains.
It’s also unlikely for the three kids to be separated across the Atlantic. “Courts over here don’t like to split up children and generally favor the mother,” says Lloyd Platt. Instead of custody, she adds, “The issue between them would be one of visitation rights.”
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As for why Ritchie would argue to keep the kids in London, New York divorce attorney Nancy Chemtob says, “If he thinks she’s divorcing him because of someone else, or he feels disposed of, he may go after the children because that might be his way of getting back. Or he might truly believe he’s the better parent.”
Ritchie has hired the London law firm Manches, while Madonna, according to London’s Times, will be represented by Paul McCartney’s divorce attorney, Fiona Shackleton.
Still, chances are the couple will work this out amicably. In the statement announcing their divorce, Madonna’s rep Liz Rosenberg said, “The main concern for Madonna and Guy are their children – the security of their children in all senses of the word and the wellbeing of their children.”
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In an interview Wednesday on syndicated radio program The Billy Bush Show, Leon said that Madonna and Ritchie’s divorce “was news to me.” He added, “all I know is I just support Madonna and Guy and of course my daughter, and I support all the children and I show them love, and it’s all I can do.”
In regard to his own relationship with Madonna, Leon says, “Any parents that stay friends, it’s really good, good for the children. It’s good for family values. It’s good for a lot of reasons.”
• Reporting by PHIL BOUCHER and LIZA HAMM