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Staving a potentially-complex custody trial, set to begin next week, to award custody of Michael Jackson's three children, parties have come to an amicable agreement awarding full, permanent custody to Jackson's mother, Katherine Jackson, with visitation provisions for his ex-wife, Debbie Rowe. The children, Prince Michael, age 12, Paris Michael age 11, and Prince Michael II aka "Blanket", age 7, have spent much time with the nearly eighty-year-old Grandma Jackson. Mother of the older two children and ex-wife of Michael Jackson, Debbie Rowe, signed off her parental rights as part of the divorce settlement with the late pop icon in 2000, but recently voiced an interest in caring for the children.
The issue of grandparent custody rights is a growing field of family law, especially considering complex family trees such as that of the Jackson family's. When siblings do not share the same parents, it is a natural scenario for grandparents to seek adoption of all of the children.
But how does the law view grandparent custody and guardianship?
Grandparent rights are primarily delineated by state law. In California, the state deciding the guardianship of the Jackson children, grandparent custody requires a preexisting relationship between the grandparent and the children. The court also considers whether a parent is deceased and, in circumstances of divorce and separation, which parent the child was residing with. At the end, the court will likely not have to apply state grandparent custody provisions to the Jackson case--since the parties came up with a collaborative and mutual agreement. The parties will submit the agreement to a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge on Monday for final approval.
Legally, it would have been interesting to see how the judge applied state law to the case. Michael Jackson's 2002 will--naming his mother as guardian of the children--and Debbie Rowe's relinquishment of parental rights would have supported Grandma Jackson's vie for custody. However, Rowe's action of stepping away from her parental rights did not irreversibly rule out the possibility that she may have been granted rights, as the biological mother of two of the children. The court would also have made its decision considering the best interest of the children---likely scrutinizing attempts to separate Prince Michael I and Paris from little Blanket.
In the end, the Jackson 3 in their loss of their famous pop, are lucky to have the cooperation and support of those closest to them. And though it is not always possible, collaborative agreements to custody disputes are considered the gold--or perhaps platinum--standard for resolving custody questions.
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