Los Angeles: A legal battle appears to be looming over Michael Jackson’s three young children, with a lawyer for the superstar’s mother saying she will seek custody of her grandchildren.
Katherine Jackson has been looking after the three children — Prince Michael, 12, Paris, 11, and Prince Michael II, 7 — since their father suddenly collapsed and died on Thursday.
“She will seek custody of the children. She loves them dearly,” family attorney Londell McMillan told CNN on the sidelines of the Black Entertainment Television (BET) awards at Los Angeles’s Shrine Auditorium.
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.
Although Rowe reportedly signed away her parental rights to Jackson, 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.
McMillan however indicated Rowe would face a strong challenge from the Jacksons in the event of any custody challenge.
“(Michael’s) children are in great care with Mrs Jackson,” McMillan said. “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.”
Rowe has kept a low profile since her divorce from Jackson and has not spoken publicly since his death.
There have been conflicting reports on Rowe’s intentions, with one former associate saying she was in shock over Jackson’s death but in time would certainly seek custody of their two children.
The British tabloid, the News of the World, repeated allegations that the children were not biologically Jackson’s. It quoted Rowe as saying that she received artificial insemination from an anonymous donor.
Family law attorney Fred Silberberg said that Rowe stood an excellent chance of securing custody of Prince Michael and Paris.
“Generally speaking in California, biology trumps everything,” Silberberg told the agency last week.
“Courts tend to favor the biological parents so in that regard she has a very strong case,” Silberberg said, drawing comparisons to O.J Simpson, who successfully saw off a custody challenge from the grandparents of ex-wife Nicole Brown-Simpson, who he was accused of murdering in 1994.
Another Jackson confidante, new age guru Deepak Chopra, told CNN he was concerned the three siblings — the two children Jackson had with Rowe and their half-brother Michael — could be split up by a custody battle.
“Well, they’re going to be separated I fear, unfortunately,” Chopra said.
Michael Jackson — who struggled as a child with stardom and a strict disciplinarian father — was fiercely protective of his own children, even insisting that they wear cloaks to conceal their faces to the public.
He caused a scandal in 2002 when he dangled his youngest child — face covered — off a Berlin balcony, apparently to show Prince Michael II off to cheering fans.
Katherine Jackson has kept the three children out of sight at the family’s compound in the middle-class Los Angeles neighborhood of Encino.
Her husband Joe Jackson said the grandchildren were in “fantastic” shape and playing with their cousins.