Eddie Murphy will be dragged into Mel B’s bitter divorce battle if her estranged husband seeks visitation of the actor’s daughter with the former Spice Girl.
A judge in Los Angeles on Thursday ruled Stephen Belafonte could apply for access to 10-year-old Angel as a step-parent, in a move that would allow the Hollywood actor to join the legal battle.
Susan Wiesner, representing the Leeds-born singer - real name Melanie Brown, pleaded for the girl’s involvement to be kept private to prevent the case further descending into a media “circus”.
Ms Wiesner said: “We have got another parent here, we have got Eddie Murphy.
“If the court’s going to give him notice of proceedings and embroiling him in litigation, then we are putting his little girl in the middle of this media firestorm.”
She asked for the girl, who Murphy, 54, and Brown, 42, had during their brief relationship, to remain “the last one in this family that can have protection and privacy”.
Michael Hanasab, for Belafonte, argued his client has raised the girl since infancy and said she already lacks privacy because she is “paraded around” on US celebrity news website TMZ.
Los Angeles Superior Court’s Judge Lawrence Riff granted Belafonte’s request to submit papers allowing him to apply for visitation in the future.
“Mr Murphy is entitled to be joined as a party as soon as Mr Belafonte seeks any visitation with Angel,” he added.
Mother-of-three Brown alleges Belafonte, 42, with whom she has daughter Madison, tormented her with years of physical and mental abuse.
The hearings have been damaging so far for both sides, with the court being told Brown has “wiped out” her 50 million US dollars (£39 million) Spice Girls fortune after leading an “extravagant” lifestyle.
Belafonte, who has already failed to win temporary rights over Angel, has dismissed Brown’s claims as false - with his lawyers describing them as “nothing more than a smear campaign”.
Brown, now a judge on America’s Got Talent, married the film producer in Las Vegas in June 2007.
She filed for divorce on March 20, citing “irreconcilable differences”.
Another hearing in the case is set for Friday, with a full divorce hearing scheduled to begin on September 25.