No deal has been reached between Michael Jackson’s mother and his ex-wife over the custody of the late singer’s children, according to a lawyer in the case.
Eric George, who represents Debbie Rowe, the biological mother of Jackson’s two oldest children, said a newspaper report that Rowe had agreed to take $4 million not to challenge Katherine Jackson for custody was “completely false.” Jackson’s lawyer has not responded to requests for comment Tuesday. The Jackson family lawyer said last week that they were working to “privately and amicably resolve” the matter. A child custody court hearing, which had been set for this week, was delayed until next Monday at the request of lawyers for Jackson and Rowe, a court official said. Katherine Jackson gained temporary guardianship of the children soon after her son’s death last month. Rowe’s lawyer said two weeks ago that “Debbie has not reached a final decision concerning the pending custody proceedings.” The New York Post, quoting an unidentified Jackson family source, reported Rowe had agreed to drop any custody challenge for a $4 million payment. Jackson and Rowe married in 1996, and their first child, Michael Joseph Jackson Jr., was born in February 1997. A daughter, Paris-Michael Katherine Jackson, was born the next year. The two met when Rowe was working as a nursing assistant in the Beverly Hills office of Jackson’s dermatologist, Dr. Arnold Klein.
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Rowe said in a 2003 interview, later obtained by ABC News, that she became close to Jackson in 1996 when she consoled him after his brief marriage to Lisa Marie Presley ended. “He was upset because he really wanted to be a dad,” Rowe said. “I said, ‘So, be a dad.’ He looked at me puzzled. That is when I looked at him and said, ‘Let me do this. I want to do this. You have been so good to me. You are such a great friend. Please let me do this. You need to be a dad, and I want you to be.’ ” She told the interviewer they married only to “prevent some of the taboo of a child out of wedlock.” The couple divorced in 1999, with Rowe giving Jackson full custody while she got an $8.5 million settlement, according to court documents. She gave parental rights to Jackson in 2001, but she changed her mind more than two years later and sought temporary custody of the children. A California appeals court later ruled her rights were improperly terminated, opening the door to a possible custody battle. Rowe said in the 2003 interview that she still had “some influence” over how Jackson raised the children, citing his practice of covering their faces in public as her idea. “That was my request, not his,” she said. “I am the one who’s terrified. I am the one who’s seen the notes that someone’s going to take his children,” she said. She said the children don’t call her “Mom” because she did not want them to. “It’s not that they’re not my children, but I had them because I wanted him to be a father,” she said. Rowe, 50, lives on a horse farm in Palmdale, California, about 60 miles north of Los Angeles.