Family Drama

Kelsey Grammer's Custody Throwdown

The divorce may be finalized, but the battle brewing between Kelsey and Camille Grammer for the kids will be, by his own admission, "tortured." Maria Elena Fernandez reports.

06.26.11 5:26 PM ET

Appropriately, the tabloid-ready tale was televised from the start: Famed actor Kelsey Grammer, cheating on his wife and getting another woman pregnant while he was in New York working on a Broadway play – as reality TV cameras trailed his unsuspecting wife 3,000 miles away and captured her reaction when she found out.

By Hollywood standards, Kelsey and Camille Grammer enjoyed a long and happy marriage. Their union that lasted 13 years, produced two children, and together, they amassed an estimated $120 million fortune. But the marriage legally ended in February so that Kelsey could move on to his fourth wife, flight attendant Kayte Walsh, which he did just two weeks after the divorce was finalized.

The drama, however, is far from over. Kelsey and Camille, star of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, now find themselves in the middle of a bitter legal battle that is playing out bit by bit in the tabloid media. Not since Britney Spears lost custody of her children to Kevin Federline in 2007 has a celebrity divorce and custody case attracted so much attention.

What they’re going through off-camera is anybody’s guess, but it’s likely torturous. “Mere mortals think the rich and famous don’t have problems when everyone has the same problems,” said Los Angeles celebrity attorney Stacy D. Phillips, who has represented many celebrities in divorce and custody cases, including Spears and Bobby Brown. “But these are real people with real feelings, and you’d be surprised at how they act behind closed doors. To deal with this process is very scary and if someone is not scared, something must be wrong with them.”

For the Grammers, who have a date in court today to determine custody for the summer, the legal road ahead is long and winding. Besides division of their ample assets—including 25 cars and homes in at least five states—custody of their two young children, Mason, 9, and Jude, 6, will likely be decided during a trial. Both Kelsey and Camille, through their representatives, declined to comment for this article.

“Separately, they’re very good people, so it’s really hard to watch them go through such a battle because you can’t really divide children,” said Allison DuBois, the psychic medium who became friends with both Kelsey and Camille when Kelsey produced the TV series, Medium, which is based on her claimed abilities and life. “It’s not King Solomon. I hope the kids don’t have to suffer too much because kids in the public eye go through more than kids who go through normal divorce because everyone’s weighing in on what they think of their parents. And that can be very painful.”

Camille, who is now filming the second season of RHBH, is willing to share legal and physical custody with her ex-husband, who is temporarily living in Chicago while he films a new Starz TV series, according to Los Angeles Superior Court records. But Kelsey does not want joint custody. In fact, in April he proposed having physical custody of only his son (his daughter would live with her mother), a request he amended in May when he filed for primary custody of both children, seeking to move them to New York City, court records show.

“Just when she thinks it couldn’t get any worse, something happens that makes it even harder for her,” said DuBois, who was vilified for her mean and intoxicated appearance on RHBH and admits she is now closer to Camille than to Kelsey. “She’s just trying to move on with her life. She’s a nicer person than I. I wouldn’t have let him out of the marriage so he could marry someone else before all the money was decided. That was big of her—to let him move on in that respect without having a sense of security of where her life was going.”

With no prenuptial agreement in place, Camille Grammer stands to keep half of the estate, which includes $62.5 million in real estate, $1.4 million in vehicles and boats, $13 million in cash and equivalents, and a cut of Kelsey Grammer’s retirement, pensions, and profit-sharing plans, according to court records. During most of their marriage, Kelsey starred in and produced the lucrative NBC hit, Frasier, and produced other successful series, such as Medium and The Game, which allowed the couple to maintain a lavish lifestyle that included traveling on private jets and hiring four nannies to take care of two children.

On June 6, Camille appeared on Ryan Seacrest’s morning Los Angeles radio program and said she’s been trying to reach Grammer “and it’s very important for us to be very cordial to one another to raise our children properly…hopefully we’ll work toward some kind of agreement on this.” Six days later, Kelsey hit the Tony Awards red carpet with his new wife and invoked a different tone when he told Life & Style: “It’s going to be a long, drawn-out thing. We’ll be tortured and it will be unpleasant, I’m sure, but not on my side.”

DuBois, however, vouched for Camille, echoing that Kelsey refuses to take her calls, and blamed him for adding unnecessary tension to a difficult situation. On June 22, Camille complained to E! News that her ex-husband refused to give their children permission to appear in the upcoming season of RHBH. In court papers, she also has argued that her children belong in Los Angeles this summer because her daughter, Mason, goes to acting camp for one month, and her son, Jude, who has repeated kindergarten twice, needs to go to summer school in order to be allowed in the first grade in the fall.

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“In my opinion, most of the anger that I’ve seen has come from his camp,” DuBois said. “I hope he’s able to realize that she’s not a target. She’s not someone to be adverse with. She’s the mother of his children and was his wife for a very long time and she does deserve respect. She did not start this ball in motion. She would have stayed with him forever.”

Whoever started it, the ball will roll until the lengthy process of sorting out the last 13 years is over. In Los Angeles, judges typically begin with the presumption of joint custody and work down from there, Phillips said. To determine the custody arrangement, the court will evaluate each parent to establish if drug or alcohol abuse or domestic violence issues exist in the family. The court also will evaluate each parents’ relationship to each child, and a mental health professional will evaluate the children separately.

“If you have basically two healthy parents and two basically good parents, it would be hard for a court to just move the kids across the country,” Phillips said. “But think about what it will be like for a 9 year old and a 6 year old to regularly travel that distance to see both parents. In California, a move-away case is the worst you can have. There are no winners here. Everybody loses, especially the children. These cases are just awful. Judges hate them, mental health professionals hate them, and lawyers hate them. Is it challenging? Yeah. But from a human standpoint, it’s awful.”

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article misstated the name of Kelsey and Camille Grammer's daughter as Madison. It has since been corrected as Mason.