Friday, May 19, 2006

McCartney, Mills Custody Battle Looms

They insist their separation is amicable. But if Sir Paul McCartney and Heather Mills fail to reach a custody agreement over daughter Beatrice, friends are worried things could turn nasty. Sources close to the Beatle say he is "determined" to be the one who raises their two-year-old daughter. But Ms Mills, 38, now caring for her, is just as keen to bring up Beatrice her own way. This means that custody, rather than any financial arrangement, could be the biggest sticking point in any divorce proceedings. The couple announced their separation on Wednesday after four years of marriage. Friends of Ms Mills are now concerned for her health as she tries to deal with the separation. She is said to be so heartbroken over the break-up that, after a revision amputation, she has suffered a relapse that has put her back in a wheelchair. She is said to be under such stress that she has not stopped crying since the announcement, and is not eating. "We're very worried about her," a friend told Britain's Daily Mirror newspaper. "She's at a very low ebb, both emotionally and physically. She is unable to walk and is in a wheelchair. "She is in so much pain." While McCartney took time out after a recent row, Ms Mills expected him to return and resume the relationship. Since telling Ms Mills he wants a divorce, the pair have remained cordial for Beatrice's sake. "She and Paul are determined to keep things amicable for Bea," her friend said. "When they married they had every reason to think they would be together forever." On the custody issue, the singer's friends are adamant. "Paul is the best father in the world," a source close to the 63-year-old rock legend said yesterday."He's determined to raise Beatrice. He did a wonderful job with his other children, none of whom are spoilt brats. "Beatrice really is his main priority and he will do anything and everything to make sure she is properly raised." Divorce lawyer Katharine Lowthian said: "There is a potential for friction if they both have clear views about how they think the child should be brought up. "The law is a lot better for fathers than it used to be, but the younger the child the more inclined judges are to give custody to the mother." Both McCartney and Ms Mills spend a lot of time flying between England and the US, which could cause problems.There are reports that, while McCartney wants Beatrice to attend a comprehensive school as his other children did, her mother wants her educated privately. Friends in Los Angeles said they often saw the singer out with his daughter. One friend said: "Paul is the one we always see with Beatrice. He's a hands-on dad. "He doesn't have the nanny along to take care of her like other rich and famous people. He's the one who does it all." McCartney has three grown-up children: Mary, 36, Stella, 33, and James, 28, and a stepdaughter, Heather, 42. He and Ms Mills met at a charity event a year after the death of McCartney's first wife, Linda.


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