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A Los Angeles judge approved an agreement today giving custody of Michael Jackson's three children to the singer's mother, Katherine.
Jackson's ex-wife, Deborah Rowe, will have visitation rights with the two children she had with the singer--Prince Michael Jr., 12, and Paris Michael Katherine, 11. Jackson's third child, Prince Michael II, was born through a surrogate mother whose name has never been revealed.
Jackson died June 25 at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, about two hours after he was found unconscious and not breathing at a rented estate in Holmby Hills.
Four days later, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff granted temporary custody of the children to Katherine Jackson. It was unclear at that point whether Rowe would fight for custody of her two children with the singer.
Jackson specified in his will that he wanted his mother to have custody of the children, and in the event of her death, he wanted singer Diana Ross to raise the children.
Attorneys for Rowe and Katherine Jackson announced last week that they had reached an agreement to have Katherine named permanent guardian of the children. Beckloff approved that pact today.
"It's in the best interests of the minors,'' Beckloff said.
Under the agreement, Rowe will have visitation with her two children. The frequency and manner of the visits will be determined by a child psychologist selected by--and paid by--both parties, according to the attorneys.
No money exchanged hands as part of the agreement, according to the attorneys. Rowe will continue to receive the spousal support payments she had earlier agreed to with Jackson.
Another hearing was scheduled for Oct. 2 to "review the circumstances of the children'' and ensure that the custody arrangement is successful.
Beckloff also agreed to provide Katherine Jackson with an allowance, paid by the singer's estate, along with a separate allowance for the three children. The amount of the payments were not released, but the allowance for the children was only 83.5 percent of what attorneys had requested. Beckloff said he questioned some of the costs and opted to reduce the amount, although he added, "It is not my intention to deprive the kids of anything that they're entitled to.''
Another hearing on the allowance issue is set for Jan. 11.
The allowance payments are retroactive to the date of Jackson's death.
Katherine Jackson was initially appointed temporary special administrator of her son's estate, but she later lost that role when Beckloff appointed attorney John Branca and John McClain to oversee the estate. Both men were named in Jackson's will as executors of the estate.
Katherine Jackson has said she wants more say in guiding estate matters. Attorneys for Branca and McClain have said in response that they will keep her lawyers informed about their activities on behalf of the estate, including potential business opportunities.
Meanwhile, attorneys for concert promoter AEG--which was promoting the singer's planned series of concerts in London--filed papers asking to be named a party to the estate hearings and be kept apprised of decisions affecting the estate. Beckloff had not yet reviewed those matters.
Katherine Jackson was in court for today's hearing, along with Michael Jackson's brother, Randy, and sisters La Toya and Rebbie.
In a surprise move during the custody hearing, an attorney for Jackson's dermatologist, Arnold Klein, appeared in court and said he wanted to have a say in the "education, health care and welfare'' of Jackson's two older children. Klein has been the subject of unconfirmed media reports that he could be the biological father of the two children--rumors he has not commented on.
Beckloff asked Klein's attorney, Mark Vincent Kaplan, about Klein's legal standing "other than an interested friend.''
Kaplan then approached the bench and spoke privately with the judge and other attorneys. After the short conference, Beckloff said Klein would have to file court papers if he wanted to try to intervene in the custody case.