Why Does Priscilla Presley Have Custody of Grandchildren During Lisa Marie's Divorce Battle? Legal Expert Weighs In
Priscilla Presley has confirmed that she’s caring for her young grandchildren as the twins’ father faces shocking abuse allegations — sparking questions about why Lisa Marie wasn’t given custody of the girls.
A legal expert tells PEOPLE, however, that it is not uncommon for children to be removed from both parents if one is suspected of wrongdoing.
“In situations where you know that a parent is doing something that’s threatening to children, you as the other parent have an affirmative obligation to act to protect those children – if you don’t, those children can be detained from both parents,” Greg Girvan, an L.A.-based attorney and certified family law specialist who is not involved in the Presley case, tells PEOPLE.
Lisa Marie – the daughter of Priscilla and Elvis Presley – made the abuse allegations against her estranged husband, Michael Lockwood, in court papers filed earlier this month. She claimed that Lockwood is the subject of criminal investigations involving hundreds of inappropriate photos of children that authorities found on his electronic devices.
Lockwood’s lawyer, Jeff Sturman, called Lisa Marie’s claims “a one-sided, inaccurate version of the facts” in a statement, adding that his client “denies the truth of what Ms. Presley chose to put in the press.”
Girvan says that protective serves will intervene whenever there’s a “perceived threat” to the health, safety and well-being of children. “There was such a perceived threat to [Presley and Lockwood’s] children. If these allegations are true then obviously there was a fear that the children were at imminent risk and until they can sort out who’s responsible for the images, how they came to be, and what either of the parents may have known, it looks like the county has decided to move the children away from both parents and put them with the maternal grandmother.”
Though it is yet unclear if Lockwood has issued any allegations against Lisa Marie that could have led to the kids’ removal, Girvan says that her proximity to any of the devices allegedly containing the photos could have played a part.
WATCH: Priscilla Presley Confirms She’s Caring for Daughter Lisa Marie’s 8-Year-Old Twin Girls Amid Divorce Battle
Police in Beverly Hills confirmed to multiple outlets that they received child abuse allegations involving the Presley family last summer – and said that the investigation was referred to authorities in Tennessee. (PEOPLE was unable to verify Presley’s claims that Lockwood is the subject of a police investigation.) Tennessee Bureau of Investigation issued a statement on Saturday said there were still investigating if a crime had taken place.
Lisa Marie, 49, says in the court documents that there is a trial set in March at the Edelman Children’s Court related to “the hundreds of inappropriate photos that I discovered that Respondent had taken as well as disturbing video footage and behavior. When I discovered the photos on Respondent’s computer, and viewed the videos, I was shocked and horrified and sick to my stomach. I had no idea that Respondent had taken these photos.”
While Lockwood’s lawyer said that he “is not going to publicly disclose very negative information about Ms. Presley to retaliate,” Girvan says that “oftentimes these custody battles end up mudslinging back and forth.”
“But this is a sufficiently well-publicized couple, that I think everyone knows a lot of the history for both of the parents,” he notes.
Girvan says that DCFS’ “preference” is to place children with a family member, rather than into the foster care system, which is likely why Priscilla was given custody.
The situation could continue to play out for days – or years – Girvan speculates, saying, “the children will remain with the grandmother until a judge is convinced that one or both parents is not a threat to the children.”
Presley filed for divorce from Lockwood last June, citing irreconcilable differences. Presley has requested full custody of the children, offering Lockwood monitored visitation.