April 24, 2007 - The recent controversy surrounding an expletive-laden voicemail message from actor Alec Baldwin to his eleven-year old daughter Ireland provides a sad yet realistic view of how child custody disputes may continue to be hotly-contested following divorces and ultimately have damaging effects on all parties involved, especially children.
Last week, TMZ.com publicly aired a voicemail message from earlier this month in which an angry Baldwin called Ireland "a rude, thoughtless pig" after she apparently missed a planned phone conversation with him. Ireland has been the subject of a bitter child custody dispute between Baldwin and his ex-wife, actress Kim Basinger, since their very public and ugly celebrity divorce in 2002.
Also heard in the message, Baldwin questioned his daughter's "brains" for allegedly missing several phone calls with him in the past and then threatened to fly from New York to California to "straighten her out." Adding further embarrassment to the situation, Baldwin got tripped up on his daughter's age during the message.
After the release of this angry voicemail, Baldwin quickly became the subject of much controversy and criticism. Some media outlets even called him the "rude, thoughtless pig!"
Through a spokesman, Baldwin issued a public apology and said that he should have used different language when addressing his daughter. He then added even more fuel to the fire by saying that Basinger and her lawyer leaked the tape in violation of a court order. He also said that people don't know how much he has gone through during the custody dispute over Ireland. Baldwin and his lawyer have filed suit against Basinger and her lawyer.
At the time of its release, a Basinger spokesman refused further comment on the situation beyond saying that "the voicemail speaks for itself." The Basinger camp has since denied leaking the tape and said that the "tape did not break a sealed court order."
Regardless of all of this back-and-forth fighting, Baldwin's actions have already had one serious ramification. After hearing the scathing voicemail message, the judge who presided over his custody battle temporarily suspended Baldwin's visitation rights with his daughter. During the ex-couple's 2004 custody trial, Baldwin was granted ongoing custody and joint legal custody of Ireland. He must now wait for a May 4th hearing to see if his visitation rights will be restored.
Ultimately, this celebrity custody dispute teaches some very important lessons. To begin with, child custody cases and disputes can take a toll on all parties involved and continue for years to come. With that said, it is the responsibility of the disputing parents to do all that is possible to not let these custody disputes affect their children's lives or at least minimize the impact as much as possible.
Unfortunately, this case is a prime example of what not to do during a child custody dispute. As a result of her father's statements, eleven-year-old Ireland has become the subject of the media and paparazzi. Consequently, Basinger has said that she has hired extra security for her daughter in order for her to continue with her daily activities.
And Basinger apparently shares a lot of blame in this situation. Like her ex-husband who faces a court date about his visitation rights, Basinger is set to go to court for apparently not complying with the child custody agreement. She faces a dozen misdemeanor charges for contempt, not making Ireland available for outings with Baldwin and failing to keep to scheduled visitations that were previously agreed upon.
So even if these charges do prove true and Baldwin's frustrations are somewhat justified, the manner in which he responded to his daughter was unfortunate and unacceptable. With that said, both parents in this celebrity divorce case need to put their eleven year-old child's welfare ahead of their bitterness and egos. While this may be difficult when being involved in a custody dispute in the celebrity spotlight, it is something that will have to done for the overall good of their daughter.