British judge urges Madonna, Ritchie to end son custody dispute

Mon Mar 21, 2016 10:18am EDT
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LONDON (Reuters) - A British judge made a fresh plea on Monday to pop star Madonna and her film director ex-husband Guy Ritchie to work out an amicable solution to their custody battle over their teenage son.

The "Material Girl" singer and "Sherlock Holmes" director, whose litigation over 15-year old Rocco has been taking place in New York and London, divorced in 2008 and agreed their son would live with the songstress.

But since late last year Rocco has been in London living with Ritchie and in December ignored a New York court order to return to the United States to stay with his mother.

Madonna, 57, issued legal proceedings in the British capital last December but later sought to withdraw them.

At Monday's hearing -- which neither Madonna nor Ritchie attended -- judge Justice Alistair MacDonald granted the singer permission to end the proceedings in Britain and appealed to both sides to settle the matter, according to a transcript of his judgment.

"... At the root of these proceedings ... is a temporary breakdown in trust. For all the media coverage, comment and analysis, this is a case born out of circumstances that arise for countless separated parents the world over," he said.

"I renew, one final time, my plea for the parents to seek, and to find an amicable resolution to the dispute between them ... It would be a very great tragedy for Rocco if any more of the precious and fast-receding days of his childhood were to be taken up by this dispute."

His appeal echoes that of Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Deborah Kaplan, who earlier this month also urged both sides to work together to resolve the dispute. A hearing in New York was set for June 1.

Madonna wrapped up her "Rebel Heart" world tour at the weekend with shows in Sydney. Rocco had traveled with her for the tour's initial stages, working backstage. He also toured with the singer in 2012.

(Reporting By Helena Williams and Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

Madonna performs during her Rebel Heart Tour concert at Studio City in Macau, China February 20, 2016.   REUTERS/Bobby Yip