Paul Walker's Daughter: Will There Be a Custody Battle over Meadow Walker?

Paul Walker Daughter: Will Guardianship over Meadow Walker Spur Custody Battle?
Paul Walker
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty

03/24/2014 AT 01:05 PM EDT

Paul Walker's mother has filed papers seeking to become the legal guardian of the late actor's 15-year-old daughter, Meadow Walker. But that request could easily become a court battle if Meadow's mother, the actor's ex-girlfriend Rebecca Soteros, chooses to oppose the move.

In papers filed this week, Walker's mother, Cheryl, asked to be made guardian of Meadow and of the estate that her father left her in his will, valued at up to $25 million. In her petition, Cheryl Walker claims that she would be a better guardian and that Soteros has a drinking problem. Court papers show Soteros has two DUIs – one in 2003 in Orange County, Calif., and one in 2013 in Hawaii. Walker had stipulated in his will that his mother become Meadow's guardian.

So far, Soteros has not filed any response in court, nor has she responded to requests for comment. But according to E! News, a source says Soteros was surprised by Cheryl Walker's guardianship petition and that she "will fight this, I'm sure, until her last breath to be [Meadow's] mom. All she wants is to have her child."

A judge would have to see a lot more evidence that Soteros is an unfit mother before displacing her as the legal guardian, experts say.

"There need to be issues of abuse and neglect," says L.A. probate attorney Jeffrey Cohen.

A hearing in the guardianship case has been set for April 30 in Los Angeles. Attorneys anticipate that a judge will appoint an investigator to explore these issues and make a confidential report to the court. The judge also will likely, at some point, appoint an attorney who would represent Meadow's preferences and best interests.

This clause in the will does not compel the family court to award Meadow's guardianship to Cheryl Walker – but it helps, says probate attorney Andrew Katzenstein, because it lets the judge know the feelings of the person who, until recently, was Meadow's custodial parent.

"The will is only a nomination," Katzenstein explains. "The court has to appoint that person."

As for the money involved, a guardian wouldn't have access to Meadow's trust fund, but could benefit from the fund's allowance for living expenses and payments for caring for the teen.

A trial, which would scrutinize Meadow's lifestyle and the fitness of each woman to act as her parent, "can be very traumatic," says Katzenstein. "But she's a teenager. It's very important she end up with the right person."

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