Why Can Roseanne Barr Re-Open Her Custody Arrangements?

Roseanne Barr’s third divorce was finalized in 2002. She and her former bodyguard Ben Thomas reached an agreement at that time which was intended to be completely confidential and remain sealed. 

Since then Thomas disclosed parts of the agreement by making it and the discussions around it public.  In so doing, he breached the agreement itself and also upset the delicate balance which had been the couple’s custody arrangement regarding their 15 year old son, Buck.

Under the exisitng agreement, Roseanne was to pay for Thomas and his new wife to fly to Hawaii for 10 days each month, all expenses paid, to be with Buck.  By breaching the intent of the agreement – privacy – and upsetting the primary payer in the arrangement – Roseanne Barr – Thomas probably destroyed what could have been a great deal for himself, his wife and his son.

Under common rules of contract construction, once a party breaches one aspect of a contract (here, the privacy component), the other party is no longer bound by all aspects of the agreement. The cpourts do not enforce contracts so that one party must comply while the other does whatever he or she wants.

Under most states’ family laws, the questions surrounding a minor child – such as custody, visitation and child support – continue to be issues a court can re-open, even after the rest of the case is closed.  So long as a child has not reached the age of majority, a court can continue to become involved and evaluate the current set of circumstances surrounding the minor child’s life.

A court needs to balance whether at 15 years old, Buck’s access to his father should be his father’s responsibility, his mother’s responsibility or both.  The court must also take into account both Roseanne Barr’s right to privacy in her familial dealings and Ben Thomas’ right to air whatever greivance he feels towards his ex-wife.

While it may seem counter-intuitive for a judge to delve into this agreement 9 years after the couple divorced, it is in the child’s best interest that a court be involved.

WHAT WE LOVE:  While we cannot predict the outcome of this latest battle, we know that a judge will be looking at the best interests of the child, no matter what motivates the kid’s parents.

Published by Sharon Oberst DeFala

Sharon Oberst DeFala has practiced low-impact safe divorce since 1992.

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