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Cousin Obtains Temporary Custody of Children in Aftermath of Grandmother's Disappearance

After the abrupt disappearance of Katherine Jackson, mother of the late King of Pop and legal guardian of his three children, one of Katherine's other grandsons, T.J. Jackson, was awarded temporary custody of Prince, Paris, and Blanket.

T.J., son of Tito Jackson, was appointed by an L.A. judge to become the temporary guardian of the children last Wednesday. According to TMZ, Prince Michael, Paris, and Blanket were completely on board with T.J. becoming their temporary guardian, along with the Estate of Michael Jackson.

In Ontario, the authority for temporary custody of a child by a non-parent stems from s. 21 of the Children's Law Reform Act, which states that "a parent of a child or any other person may apply to a court for an order respecting custody..."

However, the process is not as straightforward as a simple application to the court. Rather, an applicant for custody must provide:

  • an affidavit in support of their claim,
  • a plan for the child's upbringing,
  • a recent police records check,
  • information regarding the person's involvement in any family or criminal proceedings, and
  • an authorization permitting the Children's Aid Society to provide information about the person.

In addition, to these requirements, the applicant must satisfy a judge that an order for temporary custody would be in the best interests of the child. To this end, s. 24 of the Children's Law Reform Act provides a number of factors to be considered before the court will agree to make an order for custody.

Among these factors, the court will consider:

  • all of the child's needs and circumstances, including the love, affection and emotional ties between the child and the person claiming custody,
  • the child's views and preferences (if ascertainable),
  • the ability and willingness of the applicant for custody to provide the child with guidance, education, the necessities of life and any special needs,
  • the existence of a blood relationship between applicant and child, and
  • the ability of the applicant to act as a parent.

With respect to the children's views and preferences, Ontario courts are willing to consider this factor where such views of the children are "reasonably ascertainable." Given that Prince, Paris and Blanket are 15, 14, and 10 years old respectively, it is likely that their opinions relative to custody would be taken into account by a court in this province.

In addition, T.J. appears to maintain a low-key existence relative to his famous family, a factor which would certainly weigh in his favour in the Ontario courts. Specifically, the fact that he is a blood relative, married with three children of his own, and that the Jackson children have indicated that they would like for him to become their temporary custodian are all positive indications relevant to T.J.'s bid for temporary custody.

In the latest chapter of this saga, there are reports that Katherine Jackson's attorney will be filing paperwork to create a co-guardianship with T.J. Jackson.

Given the amount of upheaval that these children have faced since their father's passing, a permanent arrangement for their care and upbringing should be strongly encouraged by the courts. The only apparent alternative - a series of temporary custodianships - will do little to introduce much-needed stability and security into their lives.