Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Michael Jackson Case and Third Party Custody

Let me say I know nothing about California custody law. I looked at my usual suspects for California law and see nothing about the Jackson case.

And the facts I do have are from The New York Times' Jackson’s Children Go to His Mother (which really gave short shrift to the kids):

LOS ANGELES — Michael Jackson’s mother was granted temporary guardianship of his three children by a Los Angeles judge on Monday, and a hearing on permanent custody was scheduled for next week.


The singer’s older children, 12-year-old Michael Joseph Jackson Jr., also known as Prince Michael, and Paris Michael Katherine Jackson, 11, are the biological children of Debbie Rowe, to whom he was briefly married. A younger son, Prince Michael Jackson II, 7, called Blanket, was carried to term by a surrogate who has never been identified.

“Minor children are currently residing with their paternal grandmother,” documents filed by lawyers for Katherine Jackson say. “They have a long-established relationship with paternal grandmother and are comfortable in her care.”

The documents list Ms. Rowe’s address as “unknown,” and the youngest child’s mother as “none.”

Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff of Los Angeles County Superior Court, who granted the temporary custody, set a hearing for next Monday to make further determinations about the children’s guardianship.
Take all that together makes the emergency order sensible - from an Indiana perspective, at least.

Indiana law prefers custody of children be with their parents. Huss v. Huss, 888 N.E.2d 1238, 1245 (Ind. 2008) and federal constitutional law requires a presumption favoring natural parents. See Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 65-66 (2000). However, that presumption can be overcome by third parties. Third parties being grandparents, relatives or strangers.

Simplifying as much as possible, the third party must prove the parent is unfit or have acquiesced in or voluntarily relinquished custody to the third party.

From the report above, what would come next in Indiana will be the grandmother having to prove that the mothers ought not have custody.

Not enough facts to know if the mother of the older children has acted in such a way to make rebuttal of the parental presumption easier for the grandmother.

I think the youngest child creates the more interesting case, but, again, not enough facts to know why she is now unknown.

Do read my Indiana Emergency Custody/Third Party Custody - IC 31-17-2-25 for how this might play out in Indiana especially for the mother of the younger child.

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