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Lawyer: Agreement on Jackson children ‘close’

L. Londell McMillan, attorney for Katherine Jackson, mother of Michael Jackson, said a custody agreement with Debbie Rowe, biological mother of two of the late pop superstar’s three children, is “close.” He said an agreement “absolutely” could be reached before a scheduled Aug. 3 court hearing.
/ Source: TODAY contributor

Katherine Jackson’s lawyer is confident that a custody agreement for Michael Jackson’s three children will be reached quickly and will not be based on money.

“Whatever the agreement will be, [it] will not be based on money,” attorney L. Londell McMillan told TODAY’s Matt Lauer Monday in New York. Asked if an agreement can be reached before a scheduled Aug. 3 custody hearing, Katherine Jackson’s legal representative replied with one word: “Absolutely.”

McMillan said that all the parties who might have a claim in the custody of Prince Michael, Paris Michael and Prince Michael II, nicknamed Blanket, have been meeting and cooperating. “I want to say the parties have been very responsible,” he said. “Debbie Rowe, her lawyers, Mrs. Jackson have been very thoughtful, very caring, very prudent, and we do believe we’re very close to reaching an agreement, and this swirling speculation is just swirling speculation.”

Lauer asked when the issue would be settled.

“We’ll be making an announcement very soon,” McMillan replied.

Parental rights can trumpThe lawyer was circumspect in his remarks, but he did indicate that he expects Katherine Jackson to ultimately have custody of the three children.

“What’s best for the children is what Michael wanted and what has been happening: Mrs. Jackson to have custody of these children,” McMillan said.

Media reports have suggested a contentious process going on, but McMillan said that is not the case. “I just want to compliment again those people who have been involved in the process. Notwithstanding the media projection of what has been going on behind the scenes, this has been very thoughtful and very, very prudent,” he told Lauer.

In the will he filed in 2002, the iconic singer named John Branca and John McClain as the executors of his estate. McMillan has been representing the interests of Jackson’s mother, who has custody of the three children while the issue of permanent custody is being settled.

Debbie Rowe is the mother of Paris and Prince Michael. Years ago she signed an agreement with Jackson giving up all custody rights to the children, and she has been quoted as saying that she does not consider herself a parent. But there has been speculation that Rowe has re-entered the fray and is reasserting her rights.

McMillan said that in family law, parental rights can trump any agreements that may have been signed. But, he said, “Michael and Debbie Rowe had their agreement prior to his passing. That is not on the table. That is not what we’re dealing with, despite a lot of the public inquiries.”

He did not say that Rowe would not be involved in the future custody of the children.

“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.”

Lauer asked if Rowe has asked for contact with the children.

“We’ll be making an announcement very soon,” McMillan replied.

Katherine’s roleMcMillan was not involved with the Jackson family when the 2002 will was filed, but he says that over the past four years he has been closely involved with both Katherine Jackson and Michael Jackson. During that time, he said, Michael Jackson’s foremost concern was always the future of his children. He also said that Katherine Jackson has been intimately involved with all decisions involving Jackson’s many business and personal dealings during that time.

“The past four years, Michael required and demanded that she have a seat at the table for any of his major business assets. She was the one sole trustee that survived years of the various representatives and managers,” McMillan said of Katherine Jackson. “The will was in 2002; there were different people in his life in 2002. Michael Jackson did not have constant contact with these people in 2007, 2008 and ’09. The will was sitting in a safe.

“But Mrs. Jackson has  been in constant contact,” McMillan continued. “She wasn’t just some passive, loving mom; she was someone that was regularly in touch with Michael. Michael trusted her dearly. She was supportive. And she was the sole trustee.”

Slideshow

Photos unrevealed until after Michael Jackson's death in June 2009 show the singer to have been an affectionate father to children Prince Michael II (nicknamed Blanket), Paris and Prince Michael, who had often appeared masked or veiled in public.

Published reports hold that Katherine Jackson is seeking a role in the settlement of Jackson’s estate, which is said to be worth an estimated $500 million, with $400 million in obligations. McMillan said that the family matriarch deserves that role because of her close involvement with her son and his family during the final years of his life.

“We believe that she is the most trusted person in the entire world, and she is the most fit from a legal standpoint to serve as a guardian of the estate,” he said.

Fourth child?
In response to an inquiry from Lauer, McMillan said he could not comment on rumors that Jackson has a fourth child, the result of a one-night stand early in his career. That rumor was fueled when a young man, Omer Bhatti, 25, was observed sitting with the family during Jackson’s memorial service.

Bhatti has said there is no biological link between him and the singer, who met Bhatti in Tunisia when Bhatti was 12 and hosted him at his Neverland ranch. Michael employed Bhatti’s mother, Pia, as a nanny for his son Prince Michael, and employed his father, Huayoun, as a driver.

Throughout the interview, McMillan expressed confidence that the children will be raised by Michael Jackson’s mother.

“When I first met Michael, from the beginning, [he said], ‘Make sure to take care of my children and my mother,’ ” the lawyer said. “That’s what we’re going to do.”