The death of Michael Jackson at the age of 50 has raised many questions about his health, finances, and legacy. But at the top of many people's list of questions is the fate of his three children: How are they coping, and who will get custody of them?
Debbie Rowe, a nurse who Jackson married in 1996 and divorced in 1999, is the mother of Prince Michael, 12, and Paris, 11; Prince Michael II (also known as Blanket), 7, was reportedly born to a surrogate mother, whose name has never been released.
A former Jackson attorney and family friend, Brian Oxman, told Radaronline Thursday that Katherine Jackson, Michael's mother, is the likeliest candidate to initially look after the children:
"Probably Mrs. Jackson will take care of them, she loves them dearly," Oxman said.... [The children] are currently still in L.A. and with a nanny."
Oxman later told "The Early Show":
"I suspect that the death of Michael Jackson is only the beginning of the legal battles over not only his property, but also his children."
Debbie Rowe could also make a play for Prince Michael and Paris. It is unknown if Jackson designated a guardian for the children in a will, but Rowe could claim that her care is in the best interest of her children, and head to court. E! reports:
If Rowe decides to make a bid for at least the two children she carried, she has quite a case, too....
Although many reports indicate Rowe legally waived her parental rights over the two kids after her divorce from Jackson, that decision actually was reversed by a judge. Eventually Jackson and Rowe reached a specific agreement of their own: Rowe retained parental rights and got a fat check while Jackson retained custody.
The children, who have lived at Neverland Ranch and in Ireland and Bahrain, were most often seen in public with their faces covered by veils or masks. In 2002, Jackson was highly criticized when he dangled Blanket, then an infant, over the balcony of a Berlin hotel to show him to screaming fans below.
The three children, like Michael and his siblings, will be growing up amid a blizzard of media attention. While the Jackson family is often in the spotlight for their tumultuous relationships, this may provide an opportunity for the family to heal past wounds.
Mark Lester, godfather to Jackson's children, told the "Today" show:
"The Jackson family is a very large family, and, you know, in times of need families get together and put aside all the differences."
See the full interview below: