A British judge has admonished Madonna and Guy Ritchie to settle their custody dispute over 15-year-old son Rocco or risk missing the last years of his childhood locked in a divisive legal battle.
"As I observed during the course of the hearing, summer does not last forever. The boy very quickly becomes the man. 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," U.K. High Court Judge Alistair MacDonald wrote in a ruling released on Monday.
"Far better for each of his parents to spend that time enjoying, in turn, the company of the mature, articulate and reflective young man who is their son and who is a very great credit to them both."
The London judge ruled that Madonna can drop her legal proceedings in England so that the legal battle can continue in the U.S. judicial system. He did not rule on whether Rocco should be returned to New York to be with Madonna – but did return the teen's passport so he could visit his mother over the Easter holiday, if he so wished.
MacDonald's ruling pointed out that despite the A-list exes stars involved and the international headlines, the issue at hand was a break-down in trust between Madonna and Ritchie.
"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," the judge wrote in his ruling, continuing, "I renew, one final time, my plea for the parents to seek, and to find an amicable resolution to the dispute between them."
The parents are already hashing out a custody agreement in New York courts, however Madonna had previously launched proceedings in the U.K. under the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction. She later decided to stop the litigation to concentrate solely on the U.S. lawsuit.
The judge's ruling comes after proceedings first began on March 3, when he began to consider whether the pop star, 57, could withdraw her complaint.
"It is her desire that this is resolved as quickly as possible," her attorney David Williams said during initial proceedings, The Guardian reported at the time.
At the time, Judge MacDonald reiterated New York judge Deborah Kaplan's sentiments, noting he hoped for an "amicable settlement" after the "highly unfortunate and deeply regrettable" family dispute.
The international squabble began in December, after Rocco left Madonna's Rebel Heart Tour to live with his father, 47, in England but refused to return to his mother in New York for the holidays, despite a judge's order.
At a hearing in New York on March 2, the judge and Madonna, Ritchie and Rocco's attorneys agreed that Rocco will remain in London, where he's attending school, for the time being, until his estranged parents come to a custody agreement. The judge urged the parents to work toward the agreement privately but scheduled a tentative hearing for June 1 if they've yet to settle the dispute.