Court: Jackson's ex-wife's parental rights improperly terminated
Ruling could set up custody battle
Michael Jackson, shown in a January visit to Germany, has spent much of the time since his trial in Bahrain.
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(CNN) -- A California appeals court ruled Wednesday that a lower court improperly terminated Deborah Rowe's parental rights to her two children with pop star Michael Jackson, opening the door to a possible custody battle between the singer and his ex-wife.
Rowe gave up her parental rights to Prince Michael Jackson -- identified in court papers as "Michael Joseph Jackson Jr." -- and Paris Michael Katherine Jackson in October 2001, giving her ex-husband sole custody. At the time, Rowe said she did not wish to share parenting responsibilities with Jackson "because he is doing so well without me."
But Rowe changed her mind more than two years later and sought temporary custody of the children, as well as a psychiatric evaluation to determine what custody arrangement would be in their best interest, the court said.
Jackson was acquitted of child molestation charges last year. Rowe asked the court to reopen the custody issue because of concerns over Jackson's criminal prosecution and "press reports Michael had associated with the Nation of Islam, whose members Deborah believed do 'not like Jews.' "
"Because she is Jewish, Deborah feared the children might be mistreated if Michael continued his association with the Nation of Islam," Wednesday's ruling states.
The same judge that previously ordered the termination of Rowe's parental rights reversed that ruling because the court did not, at the time, order an investigation into the children's best interest or consider appointing an attorney to represent their interests. Jackson's attorneys contested that reversal, claiming Rowe's rights were properly terminated, but the appeals court Wednesday upheld that decision.
The next step is for a family court and judge to decide what Rowe's custody and visitation rights will be, one of her attorneys, Eric M. George, told CNN. Attorneys for Jackson, however, can appeal Wednesday's ruling.
Since his acquittal, Jackson has spent much of his time in seclusion in the Persian Gulf nation of Bahrain. In addition to the two children he had with Rowe, he has a third child, Prince Michael II. The boy's mother has not been publicly identified.
CNN's K.J. Matthews contributed to this report.
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