In the News
What Will Happen to Michael Jackson’s Kids?
As the news changes hour by hour, their future looks uncertain
- Stephanie Elliot and Kathy Campbell
Michael Jackson wrote, “We are the world, we are the children,” but as his family prepares to bury the King of Pop, the world is asking: what will happen to his children?
In just one week, Prince, 12; Paris, 11; and Blanket, 7; have gone from basking in the love of their doting, if eccentric, father to having everything they know ripped away from them.
Michael Jackson’s three kids have been confronted by the sight of their father lying dead in a hospital room, been removed from their home and familiar surroundings, had their paternity questioned and now face the frightening uncertainty of who they are going to spend their formative years with.
The singer had a plan for his kids in the event of his death. In his 2002 will, Michael stated that he wanted his mother, Katherine, to have custody of the children, and if she predeceased him or was unable to take care of them, then he wanted his friend (and mother of five) Diana Ross to look after them.
Katherine seemed like an obvious choice, as she reportedly has a long-established relationship with her grandchildren.
Psychotherapist and mental health expert on JustAnswer.com Nancy Brooks says this would make the children’s transition easier. “Losing your only parent is devastating enough, so the children will fare better with people who knew and loved Michael as much as they do,” she explains.
And while Michael’s choice of Diana Ross as a backup guardian has surprised some, a mother whose son went to high school with two of the former Supreme’s daughters tells BettyConfidential.com that Diana would make a good guardian.
“I remember she seemed like a very involved mother,” our source says. “She attended plays that her daughters were in and seemed very proud of both of her girls, but she always dressed casually and tried to fit in with the other parents. But that was a long time ago; her daughters are now in their late thirties, so Diana [who is 65] would be more like a grandmother to Michael’s children if she ever becomes their guardian.”
While tabloids have speculated about the children’s biological parents, Michael’s second wife, Debbie Rowe, who gave birth to Prince and Paris, has now stepped forward to proclaim that she intends to seek custody of the kids who barely know her.
“I want my children,” she told NBCLA’s Chuck Henry on Thursday, declaring that she was willing to submit to DNA testing to prove that she is the children’s true biological mother.
Rowe, who divorced Michael in 1999, had initially surrendered her parental rights, saying, “You earn the title ‘parent.’ I have done absolutely nothing to earn that title.” An appeals court later reinstated Rowe’s parental rights and she and Michael reached an out-of-court settlement (said to be in the millions) over custody in 2006.
In court papers submitted earlier this week, Katherine Jackson stated that “the children have no relationship with their biological mother.” And the cynics among us can’t help but wonder about Debbie Rowe’s timing. Her move comes just a day after she was specifically cut out of Michael’s will (his estate is estimated to be worth $500 million).
And where does this leave Michael’s youngest child, Blanket, whose mother is an unidentified surrogate? Rowe has said that she would take Blanket as well, but what if a court decides to split up the children or Blanket’s mom suddenly surfaces and claims her son?
“The last thing a grieving child needs is to be sent to live in a new home, leaving all of their friends behind, or live with people they hardly know,” says Dr. Brooks.
This fight over the children is the last thing Michael would have wanted. Despite all the “Wacko Jacko” stories and charges of child abuse, many people have come forward since his death to paint a picture of the King of Pop as a doting father who put his kids first.
“He never spanked them or laid a hand on them,” says J. Randy Taraborrelli, a longtime friend of Michael’s and author of Michael Jackson: The Magic and the Madness. “He didn’t raise his voice in anger and didn’t seem to have to do so.”
Taraborrelli reports that Katherine and Joe Jackson could tell that Michael had a close relationship with his children, with Prince once telling his grandmother, “If I could spend all my time with Daddy, I would do it. I think he’s the best daddy in the world.”
While every parent makes mistakes, Michael’s seemed so much worse because they were made in the public eye (who could forget him dangling a baby Blanket over a hotel balcony in Berlin, or insisting his children wear masks or scarves to cover their faces in public?). He wondered whether his kids might grow up to resent him and the choices he made for them when they were young. In a speech he gave to a children’s charity, Michael wondered whether his children would one day ask, “Why weren’t we given a normal childhood like other kids?”
He answered: “At that moment I pray they will give me the benefit of the doubt. That they will say to themselves, our daddy did the best he could, given the unique circumstances he faced.’”
A guardianship hearing scheduled for Monday has been postponed until July 13 at the request of attorneys for Rowe and Katherine Jackson. For now, Michael Jackson’s children remain at Katherine’s Encino home, surrounded by the aunts, uncles and cousins who knew their father best.