Question on parental rights after death of the protagonists mother?

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  1. #1

    Question on parental rights after death of the protagonists mother?

    Hey everyone. I would like to write a novel but I'm having a lot of trouble with the set up. The story is set in 1989 about an 11 year old girl from London who's mother dies in a car crash & she becomes an orphan. The girls biological father is American & lives in Philadelphia. He never knew about the girls existence but his name is on her birth cert. The main plot of the story is the father comes to London & takes her back to Philadelphia to live with him & their life & relationship together throughout the girls life but I'm just wondering what would the procedure be at first. How would the father find out about his daughter? Where would she stay after her mother's death? How long would it take to get American citizenship? How & where would they meet for the first time? How long before they can move to Philadelphia? What would happen to the girls personal belongings & pet cat & horse? Could she live in America before she has American citizenship? Would she have to be adopted by her biological father? Would the mother have a funeral since there are no other living relatives? Ect. I was also wondering if she would have to change her surname because I would like to have the girl keeping her mother's surname as a sub plot. Sorry for such a long question & thank you for reading.



  2. #2
    Hi Daniel. Welcome to WF! Well, my first thoughts are that the girl and her mother are citizens of England, so wouldn't English law prevail? I would assume that they may have similar provisions for orphaned children, and she might be placed in foster care initially, pending location of relatives. Would she continue to go to her same school, or forced to go to another? It might be helpful for you to research English family law, concentrating on the specific area of England where they live, London.

    https://www.familylives.org.uk/advic...d-your-family/

    As far as the father goes, your story would have to create the avenues by which they find him, (private eye?, staff person? police?) notify him of the girl's existence, and if he is her only living relative, I would imagine he would have the opportunity to be reunited with her, and only you can decide how that would go. Would he want her? What's his life like? You don't say, but has the woman been single? Was she involved with anyone who filled the role of father to the little girl? If so, would he be claiming his parental rights as well?

    As far as funeral arrangements, again, English law. Here's another site that might help:

    https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/fa...after-a-death/

    I love research, and google is your friend. Just type in what you want and there you go! Good luck.

    I really like the premise for your story. Hope you can get all the details worked out; would love to read some of it.
    When the night has come
    And the land is dark
    And the moon is the only light we'll see
    No, I won't be afraid, no I won't be afraid
    Just as long as you stand by me.


  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by DanielA1140 View Post
    Hey everyone. I would like to write a novel but I'm having a lot of trouble with the set up. The story is set in 1989 about an 11 year old girl from London who's mother dies in a car crash & she becomes an orphan. The girls biological father is American & lives in Philadelphia. He never knew about the girls existence but his name is on her birth cert. The main plot of the story is the father comes to London & takes her back to Philadelphia to live with him & their life & relationship together throughout the girls life but I'm just wondering what would the procedure be at first. How would the father find out about his daughter? Where would she stay after her mother's death? How long would it take to get American citizenship? How & where would they meet for the first time? How long before they can move to Philadelphia? What would happen to the girls personal belongings & pet cat & horse? Could she live in America before she has American citizenship? Would she have to be adopted by her biological father? Would the mother have a funeral since there are no other living relatives? Ect. I was also wondering if she would have to change her surname because I would like to have the girl keeping her mother's surname as a sub plot. Sorry for such a long question & thank you for reading.


    Welcome!

    You have two distinct stories here. So many before have become confused on this that I feel compelled to point it out to you, lest you also get lost.

    Story #1 : The events following her mother's death to meeting her biological father.

    Story #2 : The events starting with meeting her father and including her adjustment to being an American.

    You can handle this two ways. 1) write both stories, or 2) leave story #1 as backstory that has details mentioned as needed in story #2, but otherwise is ignored.

    Others before you have focused on the backstory to the extent that they dropped story #2. Often they dropped the entire project, feeling lost and confused.

    So make a decision about which story you want to tell at this time. Then tell it.

    To answer your questions --

    The girl is not technically an orphan, as she has a father. While I understand what you mean, I doubt any officials would refer to her as "orphaned".

    If there are no maternal relatives, or even paternal ones, in the area, I would imagine she would be placed in a facility or with a foster family. You would need someone from England, ideally London, to give accurate info on exactly what would happen. You can try Google, too. Or contact a British embassy. Who knows? Someone might be willing to answer your questions.

    Since the father is listed on the birth certificate, officials would track him down, I'm guessing. CPS might be tasked with breaking the news to him.

    The girl would be a US citizen automatically, as soon as paternity is verified as well as they could in 1989. No further processing would be needed.

    No adoption would be needed either, as long as paternity is confirmed.

    The cat could be brought to the US, but would have to spend time in quarantine. Not sure about the horse. I'm guessing procedures are in place to move horses from one country to another, but the expense might be too much for the father to pay for it. To a lessor degree, the same might be true for the cat. And would the father want the animals? They can be expensive to feed, plus vet bills.

    Where would they meet? The officials involved, plus the father, would determine that. Can he afford to fly to England to meet her there? Would she have to go to the US alone? I think these are not set in stone, so your characters will have a great deal of influence on that point.

    "Would there be a funeral for the mother?" Did she make arrangements for one? Did she have close friends who might make funeral arrangements? If not, there might not be a funeral. This point is somewhat up to you. If no one does anything, I'm sure London has a policy on how to handle the death, possibly cremation without any kind of service.

    If the mother had no relatives, she might have had a will stating guardianship for her daughter.

    About the girl keeping her mother's surname. That would depend a lot on the father. Changing names is a legal procedure. The father might try just using his last name when registering her for school, for example, but that may or may not have been enough in '89. You'd need to talk with someone who worked in the Philadelphia school system back then. I would imagine the girl would want to keep the same last name, but the father can be either understanding and supportive, or a jerk and try to force her to take his last name. Or somewhere in between. This point is mostly dictated by character personality.

    I hope that answers all, or most, of your questions.

    Good luck with this project!

  4. #4
    I'm pretty sure back in '89 if you were born in the US or had at least one parent who was a US citizen, you were automatically a US citizen. When researching this, or any of your questions, you should keep in mind that you want 1989 laws, regulations, etc, and not current.

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