Halle Berry's custody brawl: (A letter to the Oscar Winner with some practical tips and unsolicited advice re custody battle)

Custody advice for Halle

Notwithstanding what we wrote here, or, I should say, in addition to what we wrote here: http://www.divorcesaloon.com/2011/02/16/halle-berry-reportedly-quits-film-to-fight-for-custody-of-daughter-nahla-aubry/ we also want to send a letter to Ms. Berry regarding her custody battle with her baby’s daddy:
Dear Halle Berry,
I want to talk to you about your custody battle with Gabriel. I don’t want to say I told you so, but I did think, back when you were gallivanting around the place with the “blond” Canadian model, that he would be a force to reckon with in due time – particularly when you made the short-sighted decision to have his baby. Sure he is hot as hell. Sure the baby is gorgeous as a result. But this was a dumb way to achieve your procreative objectives. You had other options, Halle and you should have used them. Now, you could possibly lose custody of your child after waiting so long to have her. First rule of advice, Ms. Berry: BE. CAREFUL. WHO. YOU. HAVE. CHILDREN. WITH.
Now, I don’t want to be judgmental and add to your headaches. After all, the damage is done. Nahla is here and she has a father and whatever his true motivations are with these lawsuits, the fact remains that she is equally his kid as she is your kid; and you have a custody war on your hands, unless one of you backs down and gives the other whatever it is that the other wants. For all your sakes, I hope you are able to reach a compromise privately – without him having to air all your dirty emails, text messages and voicemails — and without the whole world knowing the nitty gritty of your business. Believe me, we are waiting with baited breath to hear all the dirt. That includes moi, against my better judgment.
That said, I think that no matter what, you MUST establish yourself as the custodial parent of this child and to that end, you are going to need a judge to say that you have primary/sole custody (I don’t think any judge who is serious will award joint custody in a situation like this, at this point). It is critically important that Nahla is placed under the exclusive jurisdiction of the American courts in the State of California. This thing I hear in the press that he also filed in Canada? Is that true? We don’t want that and we can’t allow that. You want it established under both the UCCJEA and the Hague Convention, that California has exclusive jurisdiction of this custody case and that you are the primary custodial parent.
How are you going to do that? Well, hopefully, you filed your petition first. If you didn’t and he filed first in Canada, get it dismissed on forum non  conveniens grounds. Of course, the fact that you own a home there (do you still own a home in Canada? Or did you give it to Gabriel when you broke up?) that may mitigate against this argument of it being an inconvenient forum. But certainly, Nahla lives in Malibu and everything having to do with her including her pediatrician, pre-school, playmates, and family members all reside in the State of California, in the United States. So, except for her father who is a Canadian resident (and who by the way owns real estate and businesses in the United States) Nahla does not have any real connections to Canada, notwithstanding that she hold dual citizenship in the U.S. and Canada and probably has grandparents and aunts, etc, who live there. So this case rightfully belongs in the U.S. courts in California and your attorney is just going to have to get the Canadian petition dismissed, like, right away.
Now. With regard to the substantive issues. I think it is a mistake to try to blackball Gabriel, if, in fact, he is a good dad. And it looks like he is from all the pictures out there of the three of you on various outings. He is an involved father and if you go around saying bad things about him in the press, or god forbid in court? It could be construed that you are alienating the child’s affection from her father and that you will not be able to foster a healthy relationship between Nahla and her dad. This can come back to bite you in the derriere, Halle. Guard against making up stories about his “fathership” if you can do that. Unless, of course, you have cold proof of any allegations you make. You have to fight him, yes. But don’t fight dirty/dumb. Fight smart. Alright?
They can’t take your daughter away just because you work. That’s bullshit. Parents have to work. It doesn’t make them bad custodial parents. This idea that Gabriel doesn’t work is nonsense. First of all, he should be embarassed to raise that as a reason he should have custody. He’s a man. He should work. And he does work, doesn’t he? As a model or something? So he can’t be with Nahla 24/7 either.
The fact that you work in various locations around the world is irrelevant. That is the nature of the work you do. If that were a factor in the custody cases of celebrities, no celebrity would have custody of their child. So that’s bullshit right there. When you are working, you can bring along domestic helpers, babysitters, tutors, etc, to watch your daughter. You can even bring her on the set. They can’t take her away because you work. If they do that, appeal. Go as far up the hierarchy with it as you can get. Cause that’s BS.
But you know what? Depending on how it’s going? Just retire! Just tell the judge, you know what? If that is an issue, that I work? I will retire and stay home with my daughter and her father can pay me child support from his modest paychecks as an international male model with no shirt on his back. See how he likes that shizzo.
Now. With regard to his rights. He has rights and I am sure you know that. He will get overnight visits with the child because that is just what happens when you have kids and the father is not an ANONYMOUS SPERM DONOR, and he asserts his paternal rights. Which brings me back to the place where I start being judgmental about your decision to do this the way you did it. I understand why you did it, don’t get me wrong: you were a woman of a certain age, single and desiring of a child. But you are also Halle Berry who has bad luck with men; and who is single; and rich; and a whole bunch of other variables, girl. You should never have put yourself in this situation, no matter how gorgeous the man is. There are gorgeous anonymous sperm donors too. But I get it. You wanted your child to have a father and to know her father and there is something to be said for that. Children should have a father and know their father and have a relationship with their father. I am all for that. Where would I be without my own father? You know? It’s just….you should have done this differently, girl.
That said, he will get overnight visits and holiday visits and Father’s day, birthdays, etc (assuming he doesn’t win custody) and there’s nothing you can do about that. Please don’t try to slime ball him to win points unless it’s the truth. Because that is a reason for the court to take custody from you and award you “supervised visitation” with your own child! And let me tell you something: getting the courts involved in your business is the worse thing you can do as parents. It would be so much better if the two of you could work this out. Family court is a notorious nightmare. The things I’ve seen go on? Halle, you want to avoid that at all costs. Crazy outcomes happen in family court. It’s a trap! That lasts for years sometimes. It’s like this open-ended probe that results in massive invasions into your privacy and  life and, oh girl, you just don’t need that. You really don’t. And dont’ think judges don’t watch Entertainment Tonight and read celeb gossip. They know all about your story and they will rule in a way just for dramatic effect. That is, you are Halle Berry. You had this gorgeous daughter with this blond guy when you were 43. You really, really wanted a baby. What is the most dramatic outcome? Take the baby away from you! And there are judges who would do just that for the drama, the ugly, and in some cases, for spite. 
Find a way to work this out with Gabriel, girl. He’s Nahla’s dad and always will be and you will have to deal with this for the rest of her life, because that is just the price of the decision that you made to make him your baby’s daddy. Every action has a price. Cause and effect….heck, pay him off. But be careful with that. You can’t contract who will have custody. In other words, even if you pay him off, and he agrees to let you have custody, he can come back later on and still take you to court and the court is not bound to honor any contractual agreements between the two of you with regard to the minor child.
What else?
Well, be prepared to demonstrate why you are the best suited custodial parent. It’s not enough to say that you are her mother, you brought her in this world, you love her and you are Halle Berry. It’s tough because you waited to have her and nearly didn’t, huh? As an older mother, I totally understand that situation. You probably thought you weren’t going to have any kids and you worked really, really hard to produce this perfect  little creature and now this man wants to take her away, knowing how much being a mother means to you??? And that is partly what this is about. Sure, he loves his daughter. You can see that. Everybody can see that. But a part of this is vindictive. I can smell it a million miles away.
You definitely have the financial resources to care for your daughter. But the court could just say, “yea, so pay him to be a full time stay at home househusband dad.” And that would suck. But they could do it. How do you avoid it? Well, be humble. Don’t be demanding in getting custody. You are not entitled, in the eyes of the law, to custody, just because you are the mom. So be humble. And play this thing smart. Act totally cooperatively. Show that you are willing, ready and able to work with Gabriel to have a good relationship with his daughter. Offer to bring him along on some trips (you shouldn’t have to do that all the time, what is he a gigolo?) but definitely offer some trips when you are on location. Involve him in her life via email. Send pictures, give him heads up about school functions (plays, etc) and just keep him informed about her.
Under no circumstances do you allow her to call any other man “daddy.”  I mean, that’s wrong. She’s his daughter and that right has to be respected and he has to know that you totally respect that right. It will diminish the distrust and resentment that is building up between the two of you.
But remember that you are allowed to have a private life and social life and this idea that you are “too busy dating to be a mom” is total BS as well. No court expects you to stay home with your child 24/7. You are allowed to date, as is he. So do not fear that dating that Frenchman will cost you custody. But it could cost you your life. So be careful in how you do this. Gabriel strikes me as a still water that runs very deep….uh hmmmm.
Well. That stated, I really hope that neither one of you is taking any drugs that you’re not supposed to be taking; and you don’t have a drinking problem or anything like that. Because these might be reasons to lose custody. The one thing you don’t want is for him to play in the court of public opinion and release any tapes or emails that make you look like a less than “nice” Oscar Winning actress. I’m not saying that a few cuss words to you man will cost you custody. But spin is everything, you know that. So if there is anything out there, well, it may cost you some money to make it go away….and there you were thinking that by not getting married again, that you were safe from paying out your hard earned assets in spousal support? Think again, darling. Having Nahla was better than being married. She is a potential cash cow for her father – if he chooses to use his daughter in this way.
Well, I gotta go. I have 3 million things to do. But my final words to you are: play smart/play nice. That’s how you win this shit. That’s how you beat the devil at his own conniving little game. PLAY NICE.
Best regards,
your friends at Divorce Saloon
PS: speaking of the Frenchman. You’re not planning to have a baby with him, are you? Because I am telling you now you are making an even bigger mistake. Don’t do it.
Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/32633488@N02/3054076997/sizes/m/in/photostream/