CELEBRITY SCALES: Lindsay Lohan Caught in a Parent Trap
Is it life imitating art or art imitating life? Unfortunately for Lindsay Lohan, not much art is being generated these days by the whims of her tumultuous life. Instead, it is the declining state of her personal world that is looking more and more similar to a highly scripted stage drama. As Lohan’s problems mount, she is only becoming further entangled in a complex web of family legal battles, the most recent of which is being produced with her estranged father, Michael Lohan.
In a TMZ twisted, turn of events, Michael recently attempted an intervention at Lindsay’s West Hollywood home claiming he feared that his two daughters were spinning out of control. Michael arrived unprompted, flanked by Los Angeles County sheriffs and with cameras following closely behind, to “check on” Lindsay’s younger sister Ali. No signs of abuse though were found when Michael and law enforcement officials arrived at Lindsay’s apartment. Fueled by an immediate and highly public, Twitter rant by Lindsay against her father, the only tangible result of the incident seemed to be that the Lohan family feud was hung out further to dry. Following his failed intervention, Michael Lohan has now assembled a legal team, including attorney and CNN legal analyst Lisa Bloom to establish conservatorship over Lindsay. His goal is to gain legal control over Lindsay’s personal and financial affairs and force her into rehab. Michael Lohan has argued to the media that he views this severe action as the only means to help Lindsay battle a reported prescription pill addiction and prevent her from heading swiftly toward the deadly fate of such celebrities as Anna Nicole Smith, Michael Jackson, Heath Ledger and Corey Haim.
Supporting Michael’s somewhat questionable cry for help, his attorney, Lisa Bloom, recently stated to the press that Michael’s biggest fear is that Lindsay’s addiction will kill her and that he doesn’t want his daughter to become another Hollywood statistic. Bloom added that Michael would never be able to forgive himself if something happens to his daughter and he had not attempted to step in. Basically, Michael Lohan is claiming to use tough love by giving Lindsay a legal ultimatum. That ultimatum is that she either takes the steps necessary to get clean or he will take legal action to wrestle control over her personal and financial affairs. Is Michael Lohan now taking these highly public actions as a loving father or a limelight loving dad, or as both? Whatever his true motivations are for seeking conservatorship, it is debatable whether he even has an actual legal right to seek this level of control over Lindsay and if so, whether a court would grant his petition.
California conservatorship law provides that a court may appoint a conservator of an individual, similar to a guardian, should that individual ever become mentally or physically incapable of making personal or financial decisions. The conservator may be appointed as a conservator of the person or a conservator of the person’s estate, or both. The legal purpose and goal of a conservatorship is to protect and provide for adults in need of such assistance, in accordance with their best interests. To create a conservatorship, Michael Lohan must submit a petition to the court stating the reasons why a conservatorship over Lindsay’s affairs is necessary. Ultimately, Michael and his attorneys will have the burden of demonstrating to the court that there is good and sufficient cause why he should be appointed as conservator over Lindsay’s affairs. While a court may ultimately grant Michael Lohan’s request for conservatorship, simply petitioning the court for this important role does automatically guarantee that he will be appointed as Lindsay’s conservator.
For many, conservatorship causes a drastic change in the family relationship, especially when not all family members agree that a petition for conservatorship should be filed, as is obviously the case with the Lohans. While forced conservatorship by Britney Spears’ parents seemed to have helped the once troubled pop singer gain control over her emotional and substance abuse issues and ultimately put her life back on track, it is not necessarily guaranteed that the same legal strategy will work for Lindsay Lohan. Even if Lindsay obtains the unbiased professional help and guidance she desperately needs, she is still trapped in a family unit between two parents who operate, in most instances, at the same level of personal dysfunction, irrationality and denial as Lindsay does.
While Michael Lohan has been sober and clean for the past six years, he has also spent significant time in and out of prison and rehab himself. Seemingly addicted to the glare of the spotlight, Michael has also been waged in a continuous back and forth media war with his ex-wife and Lindsay’s mother Dina for many years. The constant name calling and verbal attacks between Michael and Dina that are played out incessantly in the tabloid press are primarily over domestic issues including custody, visitation rights and Michael’s reported failure to pay child support. Dina Lohan, who has recently vowed to obtain a restraining order against Michael to keep him away from both of their daughters, continues her public denial that there is anything wrong with Lindsay. The disheartening turning of her head occurs almost daily despite Lindsay’s reportedly desperate financial situation, reports and photos of her stumbling out of clubs from London to L.A. in an intoxicated state, multiple lawsuits where Lindsay Lohan is named as a party and Lohan being “let go” from almost every film, television and fashion project she touches. While Michael, Dina and Lindsay Lohan seem to have plenty of energy and emotion to constantly denigrate each other through the media in their pursuit of infamy, the three main actors of this show never seem to have the motivation to cooperate on finding a happy ending to their tragic story.
Lindsay Lohan’s career though, did not begin in such disarray. At the age of eleven and initially managed by Dina, Lindsay burst onto the scene with her role in the Disney remake, “The Parent Trap.” Hit movies such as “Freaky Friday” and “Mean Girls” immediately established Lohan as a rising star among the young Hollywood set. These films brought Lohan both critical acclaim and box office cache, the combination of which is Hollywood’s golden ticket. However, along with Lohan’s meteoric rise to celebrity status arrived new pitfalls in Lindsay’s personal life that were only exacerbated by her parent’s publicly tormented relationship. As the cameras projected Lindsay Lohan onto the covers of such chic fashion bibles as Bazaar, Elle, W, GQ, Nylon and Paper magazines and she was courted as a muse by icons Karl Lagerfeld and the House of Ungaro, the paparazzi also seemed to be not too far behind capturing her every misstep. Eventually, the red carpet photo-ops gave way to desperate looking mug shots and at least four stints in rehab in just two years. Lindsay’s problems have only continued amidst her current family malaise. She was reportedly just fired from the film “The Other Side” before production even began. The film’s financial backers were concerned that Lindsay is no longer a box office draw and too much of a production risk. Lohan’s last few films have also been both critical and financial flops.
Unfortunately, at a critical juncture in her life and career, Lohan’s inclination to self-destruct began to exceed her ability to succeed. Sadly, at that seminal tipping point, neither of Lindsay’s parents had the ability to put their selfish personal differences aside to, collectively, try and prevent their talented daughter’s downward spiral. Ultimately, until Lindsay Lohan can demonstrate to Hollywood’s power players that she is sober and reliable, she won’t be able to find meaningful work in that fickle town. Also, if Michael and Dina Lohan can focus, as one parental force, on truly helping their daughter and not themselves, then Lindsay Lohan may finally get back on the road to personal and professional recovery.
Matt Semino is a New York attorney and legal commentator. He is a graduate of Columbia Law School , Cornell University and is a Fulbright Scholar.
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Contact Matt Semino at Matt@MattSemino.com