Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Is "custody" the right word, or "win"

There have been many many Michael Jackson stories, but the news in our elevator (you know thos screens really designed to sell advertising) had a headline about the Jackson family winning custody of his children. This is the flavour of all the news reporting and one on line version uses the same headline.

"Custody" seems to imply possession. While the word also carries the connotation of "safe keeping", "guardianship" is probably both the legaly correct (custody follows divorce, guardianship follows death) and more accurate description of the responsibility. This isn't about who gets to own the kids, but about who now has the responsibility for their upbringing, nurturing them and helping them to develop into individual, independent beings.

While the court case is a contested arena (not that I can see much evidence that anyone other than the deceased's mother applied to be appointed guardian) I'm also not sure that "won" is appropriate. Is it a prize or victory to be the successful applicant? Or is it instead an obligation that is imposed by the court. Hopefully the "winner" applied because they believed that appointing them was in the best interests of the children, and that certainly appears to be the standard the courts would apply.

So just maybe the reporting should be - "Jackson family handed responsibility for the care of his children". Is that too much to hope?

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