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.”
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.