Jackson’s Mom Gets Custody of Children
Michael Jackson's three children will be raised by their 79-year-old grandmother, Katherine Jackson, attorneys for Jackson and Debbie Rowe, the biological mother of his two oldest children, said in a statement Thursday.
The custody agreement also states that Prince Michael, 12, and Paris Michael, 11, will have visits with Jackson's ex-wife Rowe.
A child psychologist, selected and paid jointly by Rowe and Jackson, will decide the frequency and nature of the visits.
Jackson's lawyers, Londell McMillan and Diane Goodman, and Rowe's lawyer, Eric George, said Jackson and Rowe "have neither sought nor agreed to any compensation to be exchanged."
Experts said consulting a child psychologist about parental visits is routine.
"It's not uncommon to have a situation like this with supervised visits when the children are unfamiliar with the parent," says Fred Silberberg, a Los Angeles-based family law attorney. "Their goal is to try to reintroduce each other and make sure that the parent coming back into the picture is acting in the best interest of the children."
Silberberg says it's also possible that the children weighed in on the arrangement. "Knowing the age of the older kids, they certainly had the right to express their preference."
The children have little, if any, relationship with Rowe. She has said she gave birth to them as a "gift" for Jackson, and she relinquished parental rights in 2001. They were reinstated in 2005, but Jackson retained primary custody.
"Particularly in family law cases, there's a high emotional cost involved," says Rhoda Chandler, a certified family law specialist with the California firm Hodson & Mullin. "The reason people settle cases is because you don't know what a judge might do. It's unclear what a court would have done as far as reintroducing (Rowe) in a parental role."
There may be more practical reasons for Rowe to get to know her children, Silberberg says. Lawyers "have to be looking at the fact that based on her age, Katherine Jackson doesn't have much life expectancy at this point," he says. Getting the children acquainted with their mother might be "a contingency plan in the case (Jackson) passes away."
In his will, Michael Jackson named Diana Ross guardian if his mother died or she became unable to care for the children, but "from a legal standpoint, Rowe would get them by default," Silberberg says. "I don't think those provisions (in his will) would have any effect."
McMillan said in a statement that the agreement was conducted in a "caring, thoughtful and courteous manner."
George called the outcome "dignified" and lauded Rowe for "her integrity and selflessness."
The agreement is expected to be approved when presented Monday to the Los Angeles Superior Court.
Jackson's third child, 7-year-old Prince Michael II, nicknamed "Blanket," was born to a surrogate whose identity has not been revealed.