Los Angeles: A judge on Monday made Michael Jackson’s mother the temporary guardian of the pop star’s three children as his ex-wife appealed to shield the youngsters from the public eye.
The three children — Prince Michael, 12, Paris, 11, and Prince Michael II, 7 — have been ensconced with their grandmother in the musical clan’s Los Angeles compound since the King of Pop collapsed and died on Thursday.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff agreed on Monday to give temporary guardianship to Katherine Jackson, 79, based on papers submitted on her behalf by her lawyer.
“We love those kids still,” family patriarch Joe Jackson told reporters.
“We’re going to take care of them and give them the education they’re supposed to have,” he said, adding that the family’s home was large enough for three children to have healthy lives inside.
The Los Angeles Superior Court set a hearing for 6 July to determine who will ultimately have custody over the children, court officials said. The court had earlier said the hearing would take place on 3 August.
The judge also gave Jackson temporary control over Jackson’s estate, which includes the sprawling Neverland fantasy ranch and the rights to songs by The Beatles.
Jackson’s former wife of three years, Debbie Rowe, is the mother of the two eldest children, while the third was born in 2002 to a surrogate whose identity has never been made public.
Rowe, a dermatologist who met Jackson during treatment, has kept a low profile since their divorce and has not sent clear signals of her intentions.
But Rowe’s attorney, Marta Almli, appealed on behalf of the mother to let the children mourn their father in peace.
Rowe “requests that Michael’s family, and particularly the children, be spared such harmful, sensationalist speculation” about their status, Almli told Los Angeles television network KCAL.
Rowe had reportedly given up custody rights after her divorce from Jackson, saying he was a “wonderful father.” But she later had a change of heart after the singer was accused of child molestation.
Some family law experts believe she has a strong chance of gaining custody of the two children on grounds she is the sole surviving biological parent.
But Londell McMillan, an attorney for the Jackson family, indicated that Katherine Jackson would seek the children.
The children “are in great care with Mrs Jackson,” McMillan told CNN on Sunday.
“They’re in a loving environment. She’s a great grandma. I couldn’t think of anyone better for these children than a grandma like Katherine Jackson and the loving support of family of the Jacksons.”
Katherine Jackson was particularly close to the pop star and attended every court session in his pedophilia trial, in which he was acquitted.
But Joe Jackson, her husband, has been more controversial. The singer said that his father would beat him and emotionally humiliate him as a child, leading to his fragility and obsession with childhood later in life.