The Michael Jackson Child Custody case highlights inequalities in parents rights.
The guardianship Court case following Michael Jackson’s death has prompted many people to worry about their position if they died prematurely leaving dependent children.
The questions raised are:-
– Is it automatic that the divorced spouse will have the children live with them or do they need something to ensure or, in some cases, prevent this?
– Has the fact that they have made a Will appointment someone as guardian sufficient?
In English law, generally only parents will have parental responsibility for their children and this cannot be usurped by a Guardian appointed by will unless both parents have died.
However, the fact that a surviving parent has parental responsibility does not mean that the children will automatically live with that person.
As with all cases involving children, their best interests are paramount and to this end, a Court has the power to make a Residence Order in favour of another person if that better serves the needs of the children.
As a result, Court’s have been known to make Orders in favour of grandparents or other relatives or friends and a child’s own wishes and feelings on the matter are always taken into account.
Highlighting inequalities in parent’s rights.
However, parents should note that even where there is no dispute between surviving relatives as to where the children should live, it is important not to overlook the need to apply for parental responsibility.
If a parent does not have parental responsibility, they may encounter difficulties consenting to medical treatment for a child or applying for a passport to take them on holiday.
As ridiculous as it may sound, even if you are named on the Birth Certificate of a child as the father, you do not automatically have parental responsibility unless your child was born after December 2003.
In those circumstances, a child may have lived with you throughout their lives but legally you still need powers conferring on you by a Court to make important decisions with regard to that child.
The huge publicity about the custody of Michael Jackson’s children has prompted parents to question their own circumstances should either of them die while their offspring are still minors.
“Legally, it may not be as straight forward as people thing and the best course of action is to seek expert advice”. If you need to discuss your own particular case, feel free to call for a free no obligation chat about your family law matter on 01536 276300 or use our online enquiry form.