Michael Jackson’s mother will get custody of his three children, and the biological mother of the two oldest children will get visitation rights but no additional money, according to an agreement that will be presented Monday to the Los Angeles Superior Court for approval, which is expected.
As announced Thursday by lawyers for both sides of the agreement, the late pop superstar’s 79-year-old mother, Katherine Jackson, will be the guardian of his children — Prince Michael, Paris Michael and Prince Michael II, nicknamed Blanket, who range in ages from 7 to 12.
Debbie Rowe, the biological mother of Prince Michael and Paris (the identity of Blanket’s surrogate mother has never been revealed), will have visitation rights with them. The timing and manner of the visits will be determined by a child psychologist selected jointly by both sides. Rowe will not get any additional money beyond what she got in her initial agreement with Michael Jackson when she agreed to give up parental rights. On Thursday, NBC News’ Jeff Rossen reported that Prince and Paris have been told that Rowe is their biological mother.
In a statement , L. Londell McMillan and Diane Goodman, attorneys for Katherine Jackson, said that she and the Jackson family were “pleased this matter is resolved and was handled in a caring, thoughtful and courteous manner by the parties and their representatives.”
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In the statement, Eric George, attorney for Rowe, said he was “proud of Deborah for her integrity and selflessness.”
‘Thoughtful and prudent’
The agreement had been predicted by Katherine Jackson’s attorney during a TODAY appearance on Monday.
“Whatever the agreement will be [it] will not be based on money,” attorney McMillan had told TODAY’s Matt Lauer Monday. Asked if an agreement could be reached before a scheduled Monday, Aug. 3, court hearing, Katherine Jackson’s legal representative replied with one word: “Absolutely.”
Rossen reported that the agreement is expected to be approved at Monday’s court date.
McMillan had praised all parties involved in the custody discussions, refuting media speculation that there was a tumultuous battle going on behind the scenes.
“We’ve kind of gotten together, and we’ve been thoughtful and prudent and we’re working on an agreement that’s going to be not just what’s best for Debbie Rowe or Mrs. Jackson, but what’s best for the two children that Debbie Rowe had.”
Rowe never petitioned for custody of Jackson's children. Michael Jackson, who died June 25 at 50, was the sole parent to his three children. He had been married to Rowe, but both had described the relationship as borne out of friendship and that Rowe had given birth to his two oldest children as a "gift." They divorced after Paris-Michael was born.
After Jackson's death, Rowe expressed interest in raising not only her two children, but Blanket as well. In a phone interview with television station KNBC, she also said she would seek a restraining order against Joe Jackson, Michael's father; Michael Jackson had a complicated relationship with him and often spoke of beatings at the hands of his father.
After Mrs. Jackson, 79, was named by a court as the children's temporary guardian, Rowe was granted a delay in a guardianship hearing while she decided whether to seek custody.
Rowe has taken legal action and demanded retractions as other reports have claimed that she was seeking money from the Jacksons in exchange for dropping any attempt at custody of the children.
Michael Jackson gave Rowe a financial settlement after they divorced in 2000 and she relinquished her parental rights. But they were reinstated by a judge in 2005 after Rowe went to court over the children. The custody dispute was settled in 2006. Terms were not disclosed, though Jackson retained primary custody.
Chef speaks out
Kai Chase, who was the personal chef for Jackson and his three children at the time of his death on June 25, applauded the agreement that was announced Thursday.
“I think it’s a great decision,” she told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira Thursday in a separate interview in New York.
Video: Chef on Jackson’s final day: ‘We started praying’ Chase, 37, was hired to cook for the “King of Pop” and his children in March, when he was beginning rehearsals for his London concert series. She left for three weeks in May, then returned at the beginning of June.
Chase said she was struck by a change in Jackson’s appearance when she returned to work in June. “When I was in the home in April, Mr. Jackson would come downstairs routinely looking wonderful — sharp with his black jeans on, blazer, aviator glasses, going to the studio, upbeat, chipper.
“When I came back in June, I noticed he was a little thinner. I wondered: Had he been eating?”
She said Jackson told her in June that he needed her to take care of him: “I need you to feed me healthy like you have been.” She said he talked about a grueling schedule of two-a-day rehearsals.
“They’re killing me,” Chase said he told her. “They’re killing me.”
In a later TODAY segment Thursday, Al Roker asked Chase if she felt that Jackson would have kept up his weight better if she had remained as chef during all of May.
“I think so, absolutely,” she said.
But on the eve of his death, Jackson appeared tired and somewhat disconnected, the chef added. “I saw him the day before,” Chase told Roker. “He had lunch with his children. He was moving kind of slow. I figured: He’s dancing, he’s rehearsing so much, he’s tired. He just seemed a little not with it.”
Roker asked Chase if she’d like to continue to be a presence in the children’s lives.
“I’d love to,” the chef said, her face lighting up with a broad smile. “Those children are adorable. They’re very intelligent. They’re fun, and I love them.”
It was evident that Chase quickly developed a warm relationship with Prince, Paris and Blanket. Within the past several weeks, she has been able to visit the children, who have been living with their grandmother since their father’s death.
“It was a beautiful experience. They had a chance to play with their cousins and they had a great time. They’re wonderful. They’re happy,” Chase told Vieira.
Video: Chef: I noticed Jackson was ‘thinner’ The chef, who was hired to cook healthy meals for the children and for Jackson, said that she never heard Rowe’s name mentioned during the time she spent in Jackson’s household. “We never discussed anyone else but what was going on in the home — food, playtime, games,” she said.
But, she added, having a mother figure in their lives can only benefit the children.
“I think it will be great for them,” Chase said. “They should know their biological mother. It will be great for Paris, growing up as a young girl. It will be great for the boys, having a mother figure around.”
Trouble for Dr. Murray
In other developments, NBC’s Rossen also reported on new developments in the legal investigation into the possible criminal role in Jackson’s death played by his physician, Dr. Conrad Murray of Las Vegas, whose expansive home there was recently searched by investigators.
Murray could be charged with manslaughter if toxicology reports show that Jackson was given the powerful sedative propofol before his death. The fast-acting sedative is so potent it is normally administered only in hospitals. Rossen reported that the toxicology reports have been given to the Los Angeles medical examiner, but they will not be released until next week.
“Dr. Murray has lost the ability to make a living as a result of this investigation … His hope is he can forestall foreclosure until he can once again begin working as a doctor,” Murray’s attorney, Ed Chernoff, said in a prepared statement.
Slideshow: Jackson’s children unveiled Jackson hired Murray in May as his live-in physician for a reported $150,000 a month. According to documents obtained by NBC News, Murray desperately needed the money.
Rossen reported that Murray has not paid his $15,165 mortgage since January, and is facing a foreclosure action filed this month.
The doctor also has twice dodged jail terms for not paying child support. Court documents obtained by NBC News showed that he owed $10,893 in back child support. Murray was sentenced on Sept. 15, 2007, to 25 days in jail for not making the payments. He was sentenced to another 10 days on April 29 of this year. He did not serve any of the time, as the court allowed him extra time to provide proof of income.
NBC News also obtained new video of Paris’ fourth birthday party in 2002 at Jackson’s Neverland Ranch.
With a white bow in her light brown hair, Paris says, “I love my daddy so much. You’re the best daddy in the whole world.”
This story contains information from The Associated Press.
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