With Halle Berry and Gabriel Aubrey throwing their ugly custody fight into the public arena, “This year, this is going to be the Super Bowl of paternity actions,” in the opinion of leading family law expert Debra Opri. The case, she believes, will serve “as a road map to people who have a child and aren’t married — of how to do it right and how not to do it.”
To recap: Aubrey filed a paternity petition Dec. 30 to establish his parental rights with two-year-old daughter Nahla. It was thought at the time that the former couple had worked out a stable arrangement for sharing time with their daughter. This week, through her rep, Berry let it be known that she had dropped out of Garry Marshall’s “New Year’s Eve” to prepare for a custody battle, and that she had serious concerns about the well-being of Nahla while she’s in Aubrey’s care. (Side note: “New Year’s Eve” is a giant, all-star ensemble film, so you have to wonder just how big a time investment would have been involved in the first place. Katherine Heigl is already set as replacement.) Quotes from reps and “close friends” about jealous and vindictive behavior on both sides have been flooding the internet, TV and other media since — along with photos of Aubrey and his Autumn romance, Kim Kardashian.
“The first thing the court is going to say is, ‘Work it out. You’re going to be doing this for a long time,'” according to Opri. “The bottom line is, this should not be a public war between two strong-willed personalities. This should be two parents sitting down and saying to each other, ‘What is the best way to handle this for our child’s sake?’ Make it work, folks. Grow up.”
Opri notes that issues likely to come up as the case is hashed out include the fact “Halle has to make a living, and her career is limited, as far as lead actress parts, to a finite period of time to get that money in.” Nevertheless, “She shouldn’t get to say, ‘My daughter is with me, bug out.'”
On the other hand, “The father should be going out of his way to work around the demands of Halle’s career, such that, if he needs to come to her on a movie location to see the child, or if a nanny has to fly with the child for him to see her, he needs to make the effort for that to happen.
“In this mood, in the State of California, she needs both parents,” continues the attorney, who successfully represented Larry Birkhead, natural father of the late Anna Nicole Smith’s daughter, Dannielynn — as well as Liza Marquez, ex-girlfriend of David Caruso, with whom he has two children.
Just what kind of custody arrangement Berry and her French-Canadian male model ex-boyfriend had, if any, before his filing is a matter of speculation. Opri notes, “If they came to an agreement prior to his filing, that may have ticked her off. But the court’s litmus test is, ‘Is it harmful to the child, what he has done?'”
Meanwhile, another public custody fight involving a celebrity and an unwed father’s rights is moving forward — that of peppery “Top Chef” hostess Padma Lakshmi and venture capitalist Adam Dell, the father of her daughter, Krishna, 11 months. (His brother is Michael Dell of Dell Computers fame, while her noteworthy associations include her ex-husband, novelist Salman Rusdie.) Dell claims that Lakshmi is attempting to sideline him and foster a relationship between Krishna and Lakshmi’s new beau, 70-year-old billionaire, chairman and CEO of IMG, Ted Forstmann — including referring to Forstmann as “daddy.”
Opri says, “When in doubt, look at the new relationship and how that new relationship is angering the other parent.” Indeed.
Whichever ex is in the right or in the wrong in either case, it’s a shame to see the legal combatants carrying on warfare in the court of public opinion — something that’s never in the best interests of the children.