Who Gets Paris, Prince and Blanket?
Yes, in his will, Michael left the kids to Katherine. But without some help, how will his 79-year-old mother care for three young kids? Enter Janet Jackson.
The further postponement of the child custody hearing for the children of the late Michael Jackson is evidence that lawyers for both Debbie Rowe and Katherine Jackson are keenly aware that neither woman is perfectly positioned to withstand the scrutiny of a child custody hearing. But Katherine Jackson has a considerably stronger case for custody of her grandchildren than Debbie Rowe.
Keeping up with Rowe’s latest statements regarding Michael Jackson’s children is a full-time job. One day she plans to fight for them, another she’s not interested in the Jackson brood. Notice that I refer to them as Jackson’s children. Media accounts have lately been referring to the children as Rowe’s children and to Rowe as the “mother” of Paris and Prince. While it’s alleged that Rowe is the biological mother of the two eldest Jackson children (and I’d still demand DNA tests if I were Katherine Jackson’s lawyer), Michael Jackson had exclusive custody under California law. This means that Rowe had, and still has, no legal rights to those children. The fact that Jackson is dead doesn’t change that.
By all accounts, Rowe has never had any relationship with the children. It’s unclear, at this point, if the children even know that Rowe is their mother. Reports are that the children grew up believing that they didn’t have a mother (these things were possible in Michael’s world).
Nevertheless, like every other state, California follows a “best interest of the child” standard for contested child custody cases. This means that considering all of the circumstances, the court will determine what is best for the Jackson children. Rowe’s biological connection to the children is just one factor to be considered, and given the fact that she has never lived with them or been a mother to them, it is a very weak factor. The fact that she has gone back and forth over the years—reportedly relinquishing her parental rights and then seeking to reinstate them even when Jackson was alive—is perhaps the strongest point against her.
California courts will also give due weight in its analysis to the wishes of the children. It’s hard to imagine Paris, Prince Michael and Blanket, who we saw nestled comfortably with the Jackson family at the memorial service for their father, expressing an interest in living with a woman who’s a virtual and perhaps absolute stranger.
The fact that Michael designated in his will that Katherine Jackson should be the children’s guardian is a factor entitled to considerable weight by the court. Nevertheless, the “best interests of the child” standard requires that the court scrutinize whether or not Katherine Jackson is a fit guardian for the children. Mrs. Jackson is nearly 80 years old and is unlikely to be in the kind of physical condition suitable to take care of three young children. And then there’s Joe Jackson, to whom Katherine is still married and with whom she just celebrated a 60th wedding anniversary and who is about as creepy an old man as they come. His performance outside the BET awards, when he vulgarly tried to promote his new recording venture only days after his son’s death, showed a man completely out of touch with reality and too self-absorbed to care for children. Since then, his comments suggesting that the children could be performers have only made matters worse.