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Grandmother Gets Custody of Jackson Children

Even as a judge granted temporary guardianship of Michael Jackson's three children Monday to their grandmother, permanent custody remained in question.

Jackson's mother, Katherine, will care for Michael Joseph Jackson Jr., 12, Paris Michael Katherine Jackson, 11, and Prince Michael Jackson II, 7, pending a hearing on the family's petition Aug. 3.

It's yet to be seen whether Jackson's ex-wife Debbie Rowe steps forward to seek custody as mother of the two oldest. Jackson's father, Joe, said at a news conference with the Rev. Al Sharpton here Monday that the children should remain with them. "We love these kids," he said. "We're going to take care of them and give them the education they are supposed to have."

The petition asked that Katherine Jackson be named administrator of the estate for the benefit of the children and said the family believes Jackson died without a valid will.

A journalist who spoke briefly with Rowe said she was grieving and wasn't ready to discuss the children's future. "She's very upset. She really loved Michael," says The Hollywood Reporter's Roger Friedman.

The case is clouded by Rowe's unusual arrangement, in which she bore the two children, then signed a legal agreement relinquishing full custody to Jackson. An appellate court later ruled she still could assert parental rights.

"If Ms. Rowe steps forward and says she wants custody, there's a reasonable chance she will be granted custody," says Scott Altman, professor of family law at the University of Southern California. The case could hinge on how strong of a relationship she is able to show she had with the children over the years.

The mother of Prince Michael II has yet to be identified in public.

Some experts say the children should remain with the grandparents. "Grandparents stay focused on the children," says Georgia Witkin, assistant professor of psychiatry at New York's Mount Sinai Medical Center. "To send them to strangers is not a good idea."

Also Monday, Sharpton told USA TODAY the Jackson family would announce funeral plans in the next two days. Sharpton met with the family at their Encino home for two hours Monday.

"They've not made the final decisions. My recommendation is that they do whatever they want - private or for close associates - and then at a later date let the whole world have a celebration, maybe around his birthday at the end of August," he says. "They wanted to keep his legacy out there and focus on the positive."

Jackson's three children are staying at the house and were playing with their cousins, Sharpton says. "I saw them in the house. They seemed to be happy where they were, given the circumstances."

Sharpton says Joe Jackson's news conference was held to clear up confusion over his comments at the BET Awards in promotion of a business venture. "He also didn't want to make it seem like he was pushing his record company," Sharpton says.

And promoter AEG Live said Monday that ticket holders for Jackson's This Is It tour can receive full refunds or opt for the physical tickets, which have not yet been mailed. They feature lenticular-process images, inspired by Jackson, that appear to have motion and depth.

Details on refunds and ticket images will be posted Wednesday at MichaelJacksonLive.com.

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