Bob Geldof blames Britain’s family courts for the emotional pain endured by his daughter Peaches, who died of a heroin overdose in April, and Fifi, who has recently revealed her battle with depression and alcohol abuse.
The singer said that the courts made it impossible for him to take care of his children after he parted from their mother, Paula Yates, in 1995. Successive judges ruled that their mother was best placed to take care of them.
Geldof, 63, was speaking to Saga Magazine about how he has managed to cope with Peaches’ death and Fifi’s decision to go public with her mental battles.
“Peaches I don’t really want to talk about as it’s too raw, but I will say that I blame the entire family court system for so much of their subsequent pain,” he said.
He said he was “ruined” when Yates left him, taking the children with her, yet in the eyes of the law that was perfectly permissible. In the beginning he was only allowed to see them once a fortnight.
“All I wanted was to see my kids 50 per cent of the time. I wouldn’t have had children if I didn’t want the privilege of bringing them up and I wanted to keep my kids away from this decadent world Paula had fallen into. The courts, of course, prevented that as much as possible and I got them every two weeks, having been with them every day since they were born.
“If I’d walked out with the kids, I would have been arrested for kidnap, but if a woman walks out with the kids the father is allowed to see them only every other weekend. It’s state-sanctioned kidnapping.”
Geldof eventually won shared custody and was awarded primary custody in 1998. By then Yates had suffered a breakdown triggered by the death of her new partner, the INXS singer Michael Hutchence. Fifi was 15, Peaches was nine and Pixie eight. Eventually Geldof also adopted Tiger Lily, Yates’s daughter with Hutchence.
Peaches once recalled the contrasting experiences of her parents’ homes, with her father insisting on “homework, dinner, bed — because he was trying in his own way to combat what was going on at my mother’s”. Peaches, who had two children, died in April, aged 25, after overdosing on heroin, the same way her mother died in 2000.
During the summer, Fifi, 31, spoke about her depression, which was first diagnosed during her parents’ divorce by a court-appointed therapist.
Recent years have seen fathers granted greater rights to care for their children after divorce, with the courts now presuming that children, in most cases, benefit from shared parenting. This does not mean they spend half their time with each parent, however. It usually means that they spend five days with their father and nine with their mother over the course of a fortnight.