Pop star Michael Jackson and his second wife have agreed to hire a retired judge to handle an unspecified “family law matter,” perhaps to change the terms of the custody and visitation agreements of their two children.
In an order filed Friday, a judge approved an agreement reached by Jackson and Deborah Rowe on Jan. 27 to have retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stephen M. Lachs preside over the case.
The matter is believed to concern custody and visitation arrangements for the couple’s two children — a boy, 7, and a girl, who is 5 or 6, who reportedly live with Jackson.
Lachs works with a center for alternative dispute resolution that allows parties in civil disputes to hire private judges.
In an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Wednesday, Lachs said the case would be open to the public and the decision would be binding. He did not discuss details of the case.
Attorney Dana Cole, an expert in family law who is not involved in the case, said such a request would not be unusual with Jackson facing trial on child molestation charges.
“They hire private judges so that everything can be done behind closed doors,” said Cole.
Rowe’s attorney, Iris Finsilver, did not return a call for comment Tuesday. A call to Jackson attorney Lance Spiegel was answered by a recording saying Spiegel’s law firm did not respond to media requests for comment.
Cole noted that the private judge’s rulings would be as binding as if they were made in a regular family court.
Rowe and Jackson were married in 1996 in Sydney, Australia, after they announced that Rowe, who worked as a nurse for Jackson’s plastic surgeon, was carrying the pop star’s child.
She gave birth to a son, Prince Michael, 7, and the couple later had a daughter, Paris, who is 5 or 6. Jackson has a third child, Prince Michael II, who is believed to be about 10 months old, but he has not disclosed the identity of that boy’s mother.
It was Prince Michael II who made headlines last year when Jackson dangled him from the balcony of a Berlin hotel for fans to see.
The marriage ended in 1999 after Rowe filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences. Jackson had previously been married to Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of Elvis Presley.