A Family Law Lawyer Comments on Michael Jackson and Child Custody 

Michael Jackson and Child Custody

With the death of Michael Jackson, there has been significant speculation as to what will happen with the custody of his three children.  In his will, Jackson designated his mother as the children’s guardian.  However, a guardianship designation in a will does not supersede the rights of a parent.   As to the two older children, at least, the children’s mother, Debbie Rowe, may have superior rights to Jackson’s mother.   Ultimately, the California Court will have to determine if it would be detrimental to the children’s best interests to be placed in the custody of Ms. Rowe.  See this story on the BBC:  Michael Jackson Child Custody

 Debbie Rowe and Child Custody

At this time, there is no custody dispute.  Ms. Rowe has filed no suit, and the children are in the custody of Jackson’s mother.  As a family law attorney, I am happy to say that parents are usually motivated by the best interests of the children in these circumstances.   If a parent has not been part of the child’s life for a significant period of time, they may not be motivated to step in if there is a more suitable custodian.  They may, on the other hand, want to negotiate some quality time with the children.   In this case, even if Ms. Rowe does not want custody of the children, the death of their father may provide her with an opportunity that didn’t exist prior to Jackson’s death to be part of her children’s life.  

 Of course, there is a potential jackpot here, since Jackson’s estate may provide the children’s custodian with access to a very large amount of cash.  

 Finally, since Ms. Rowe is not the biological parent of Jackson’s youngest child, who was the product of a surrogacy arrangement, additional complications may surface.    

Jennifer Moore
Moore Family Law, P.APlymouth, MN
jennifer.moore@moorefamilylawMN.com

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June 8, 2009

Buckle Up, Minnesota, Buckle Up! 

(With a tip of our cap to “Buckle Down Winsocki, Buckle Down” lyrics:  http://www.stlyrics.com/lyrics/bestfootforward/buckledownwinsocki.htm )

 Safety First…

Beginning June 9, 2009, you can be stopped by a police officer if you do not have your seatbelt on.  This is a change, because in the past, police could only stop you if you committed some other violation in addition to a seatbelt violation.    http://www.startribune.com/local/47145682.html?elr=KArksUUUU

 And, Avoiding Problems in a Divorce Child Custody Dispute 

While I do not think it is a major crime not to wear a seatbelt, I have seen significant family law litigation over the failure to use seatbelts or car seats for children.  Often, the newly single parent does not have the means to purchase a car seat, or their cars are in poor repair.   Here is a guide to Hennepin County resources to assist parents in obtaining the proper safety restraints:  http://www.buckleupkids.state.mn.us/Hennepin%20County%20Guide%202005.pdf.  It is worth a little hassle to avoid custody litigation.

 Jennifer Moore
www.MooreFamilyLawMN.com

Plymouth, MN
jennifer.moore@moorefamilylawMN.com

Divorce, Valuation Dates, and Finances

Question:  

Consider for a moment that you and your spouse decided to divorce in May of 2007, separated your households and began living apart, but you did not file for divorce until May of 2009.  You know that your house is worth less than it was worth two years ago.  You may even be under water on the house now, whereas two years ago, you may have had $20,000 or $30,000 worth of equity in your home.  What date is used to value the house in a divorce?

 Answer: 

Under Minnesota law, the valuation date is presumed to be the date of the first regularly scheduled pretrial hearing.  However, parties to a divorce can agree to use a different valuation date.  More importantly, a different valuation date can be used by the Court if it finds that the alternative valuation date is more fair and equitable under the circumstances.   This used to be an issue that was rarely litigated, but with the global economic crisis affecting the value of houses and retirement assets so dramatically, it is now a topic of divorce litigation in almost all of my cases here in Minnesota. 

 Workarounds: 

There are ways around the issue.  For example, with retirement and investment assets, parties can agree to simply split the asset equally without placing a value on the asset.  Or, parties can trade similar assets that have been affected equally by the economy without placing a value on either asset.   What you can work out depends of course on how much cooperation you can get from the opposing party.

 Jennifer Moore
Moore Family Law, P.A.
www.MooreFamilyLawMN.com 

jennifer.moore@moorefamilylawMN.com