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San Jose Family Law Attorney Discusses the What Happens to the Children When a Parent Dies

San Jose Family Law Attorney Discusses the What Happens to the Children When a Parent Dies
With the death of Michael Jackson, and a potential custody battle arising between Katherine Jackson, the mother of Michael and Debbie Rowe, Jackson’s second wife and the biological mother of Prince Michael, 12, and Paris, 11, much talk has arisen about what happens when a custodial parent dies.

Generally, if a custodial parent dies while the child is a minor, the surviving parent would be entitled to sole legal custody. Other third parties such as aunts, uncles or grandparents may try to obtain custody of the child by filing an independent proceeding such as a guardianship, dependency or in the case of grandparents, a Petition for Grandparent Visitation. The other family members may be awarded custody if they can show that it would not be in the child’s best interest to be in the custody of the surviving parent and to do so would be detrimental to the child.

The same would still be true even if the deceased parent had sole legal and sole physical custody and had not even been involved with the child in the last few years. For instance, if Michael Jackson was awarded sole legal and sole physical custody (which he had not), Debbie Rowe would still have parental rights, unless all of her legal parental rights and responsibilities had been terminated. Since no such order existed, that is why Debbie Rowe still has standing to try and obtain custody of Prince Michael and Paris.

If a custodial parent dies and the other parent who has been absent from the child’s life all of a sudden takes interest in the child, one may question the surviving parent’s motivation. It may be that there is some remorse and regret for being absent and a renewed desire to provide and care for the child. In other cases, if there is a possibility of the deceased parent leaving a sizeable estate, money and greed may be a motivation. Such motivation has been speculated in the case of Debbie Rowe.

Here at Sagaria Law, we offer a full range of family law and legal services including divorce, paternity, adoption, child custody and visitation matters, child support, spousal support, alimony, juvenile dependency, domestic violence, division of property, grandparent visitation and custody, etc. We have seven Northern California locations including San Jose, San Francisco, Redwood City, Fremont, Salinas, Roseville and Sacramento. We offer a free thirty minute consultation, either in person at any of our offices, or over the phone. Call our offices today and we can connect you with an attorney immediately or we can schedule your free consultation with one of our family law attorneys: (408) 279-2288 or (800) 941-6730 or visit