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Michael Jackson's mother will retain custody of children

Katherine Jackson and Deborah Rowe, the biological mother of the two older children, reach an agreement that includes visitation rights. A judge will be asked to give final approval Monday.

July 31, 2009|Maura Dolan

Michael Jackson's mother will retain custody of his children, and the biological mother of the two elder children will visit and maintain her legal parental rights under an agreement reached by both sides, lawyers said Thursday.

Katherine Jackson, 79, the late pop icon's mother, and Deborah Rowe, 50, who bore Jackson's two older children, also agreed to mutually hire a child psychologist to advise them on how, when and where Rowe's visits should take place, lawyers for Jackson and Rowe said.

The agreement will go before a Los Angeles judge Monday, and both sides expect the judge to approve it.

Eric George, Rowe's attorney, said the discussions with Jackson "resulted in a dignified outcome."

"The sole consideration between the parties was the best interests of the children," George said. He added that he was "particularly proud of Deborah for her integrity and selflessness."

Rowe did not ask for custody, nor did she seek or receive any money under the arrangement, lawyers said. Rowe will pay half of the fees for the child psychologist, who will determine a visitation plan in the best interest of the children, the lawyers said.

Jackson and Rowe married in 1996 when she was six months' pregnant after being artificially inseminated. She is the mother of Prince Michael Jr., 12, and Paris Michael Katherine, 11. Jackson's youngest child, Prince Michael II, 7, called Blanket, was carried by an unidentified surrogate.

As the biological mother, Rowe had a legal claim to guardianship, but Katherine Jackson could have prevailed if she showed it was not in the children's best interest to be with Rowe.

Rowe has not seen the children in several years and at one time had relinquished her parental rights. Her lack of involvement in the children's lives would have hurt her case, and a judge also probably would have wanted the three children to remain together, family law professors said.

Lawyers for Jackson said the family was pleased that the matter was handled "in a caring, thoughtful and courteous manner."

"We were all united in our goals to do what is best for Michael's wonderful children, and both Mrs. Jackson and Debbie Rowe were on the exact same page," lawyers Londell McMillan and Diane Goodman said in a written statement.

Rowe lives on a horse farm in Palmdale that she purchased after receiving an $8.5-million divorce settlement from Jackson. The terms of the divorce, finalized in 2000, gave Jackson sole custody of the children and Rowe visitation. She soon stopped visiting the children because she said "it was not working out," according to court records.

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maura.dolan@latimes.com

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