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Custody of Michael Jackson's children to be decided in court

MICHAEL Jackson's mother, Katherine, is taking care of the singer's three children and the family was going to court yesterday in part to protect her rights to custody, the family's spokesman said.

Londell McMillan, the Jacksons' attorney, said the family hadn't heard from Deborah Rowe, the mother of Jackson's two oldest children, about custody.

"I don't think there will be anybody who thinks that there is someone better" than Katherine Jackson to have custody, McMillan said. "She is a very loving host of other grandchildren."

Jackson left behind three children: Michael Joseph Jackson Jr, known as Prince Michael, 12; Paris Michael Katherine Jackson, 11; and Prince Michael II, 7. The youngest son was born to a surrogate mother.


Given the secrecy surrounding Michael Jackson's children throughout his life, it's no surprise that there are lingering questions about who will care for them after his death. What is almost certain is that their fate will be decided in a courtroom.

Experts say the person who has the strongest legal claim to Jackson's two oldest children is Rowe. As for the youngest child, Jackson's wishes will be more influential. It remains unclear who Jackson designated as potential guardians for his children. Those details - likely contained in the 50-year-old singer's will - have not been released.

Rowe's attorney, Marta Almli, said on Saturday that "Ms Rowe's only thoughts at this time have been regarding the devastating loss Michael's family has suffered. Ms Rowe requests that Michael's family, and particularly the children, be spared such harmful, sensationalist speculation and that they be able to say goodbye to their loved one in peace."

Jackson's manager, Frank DiLeo, said he was the one who told the children their father had died.

"They knew when I came into the room," he said. "I'm sure they just saw it on my face. They said 'say it's not true,' and I just said I'm sorry."

Jackson never told his family who he had in place to handle his business affairs, a person close to the family said, adding that they were told by the singer's phalanx of advisers that he likely had a will, but it may be many years old.

Prince Michael II's mother has never been identified, and while she may surface, it is likely that she signed away her rights, said Stacy Phillips, a Los Angeles divorce attorney.

Jackson was by several accounts an attentive and loving father. He was extremely protective of his children, who weren't often seen in public, and wore veils, masks or other items covering their faces when they were.

Rowe, a former nurse, married Jackson in 1996 but filed for divorce in 1999. She later gave up custody rights, but petitioned to have those restored in 2003 after Jackson was arrested on child molestation charges, and an appeals court sided with her.

Jackson and Rowe apparently agreed in 2006 regarding her rights, but the terms have never been disclosed.

Phillips said if her parental rights remain intact, she's presumed first in line to receive custody of her children.


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