Pop Icon Michael Jackson’s Death Raises Custody Issues for Relatives and Birth Mothers

Posted by Steven D. Eversole | Jun 25, 2009 | 0 Comments

Amidst the worldwide outpouring of sorrow over yesterday's untimely death of pop music legend  Michael Jackson, one big question that family law experts are asking is who will get custody over his three children. As a Birmingham divorce and family law attorney, I have encountered a variety of child custody cases throughout my career, but Mr. Jackson's case is rather unique, not just to Alabama, but even to the quirky world of eccentric entertainment personalities.

With uncertainty relating to the children's conception, questions of paternity, as well as the way in which the kids have been brought up, speculation is swirling as to whom the Jackson children will eventually wind up with. No doubt, thischild custody case could have some surprising twists and turns.

There are several interested parties including Jackson's mother, Katherine, and the children's nanny, Grace Rwaramba, who has worked for Jackson for almost 20 years. Another large presence is the surrogate mother of the two older children. In addition, there is a second surrogate, mother to Jackson's third child, who reportedly lives in Germany. According to news sources, Jackson's estate is in the red by about $400 million dollars, however the entertainer's notoriety will likely make the Jackson children's custody a hotly contested issue.

Katherine Jackson has expressed a very strong desire to adopt her three grandchildren, according to a long-time family friend. However, Jackson himself reportedly said that he wanted the kids' nanny to have custody should anything ever happen to him. Rwaramba, 42, had assumed an increasingly central role in lives of Jackson and his children, according to news stories. Following his acquittal on molestation charges in 2005, Jackson, Rwaramba and the children moved to Bahrain and then later to Ireland.

Surrogate mother, Debbie Rowe, who was a nurse in the office of Jackson's dermatologist, is the birth mother of two of Jackson's kids, 12-year-old Prince Michael Jr. and 11-year-old Paris Katherine. Rowe was artificially inseminated prior to both pregnancies, but has never revealed if Jackson was the father of either child. She and Jackson were married briefly after Prince's conception, but divorced six months after Paris' birth.

Apparently, Rowe gave Jackson custody of the children, but sued him in 2006 for breach of contract in an attempt to regain custody. The pair settled out of court for undisclosed terms and Jackson retained custody. However, it is a good bet that with the Jackson's recent death, Rowe will again try to gain custody of her children.

To add to the drama, Jackson's third child was born to another surrogate whose identity has not been released. This woman, who gave birth to Prince Michael II in 2001, could add another component to the case. Prince Michael II,  better known to the public as Blanket, was infamously dangled by the pop star from the window of a Berlin hotel not long after his birth.

Who Will Get Custody of Michael Jackson's Kids?, ABCNews.com, June 26, 2009

About the Author

Steven D. Eversole

J.D., Samford University's Cumberland School of Law, Birmingham, Alabama B.A., University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

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