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Michael Jackson's mom gets custody of kids

  • Story Highlights
  • Katherine Jackson named permanent guardian of Michael Jackson's kids
  • She will be given copies of Michael Jackson AEG contracts
  • Lawyers' petition accuses executors of keeping singer's mother "in the dark"
By Alan Duke
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LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- A Los Angeles Superior Court judge on Monday approved an agreement granting Michael Jackson's mother, Katherine Jackson, permanent custody of his children.

Katherine Jackson has accused the executors of her son Michael's estate of "keeping her in the dark."

Katherine Jackson has accused the executors of her son Michael's estate of "keeping her in the dark."

A hearing is scheduled for October to look at some remaining issues.

An agreement between Katherine Jackson, 79, and Debbie Rowe, mother of Jackson's two eldest children, cleared the way for an uncontested custody hearing.

Rowe, who was briefly married to Michael Jackson, agreed not to fight for custody in exchange for visits with the children.

Katherine Jackson was in the courtroom along with her daughters LaToya and Rebbie and a son, Randy.

Rowe did not attend Monday's hearing, but her attorney, Eric George, spoke briefly outside the courthouse.

"She's faced difficulties and pressures none of us know, and today's agreement shows that she responded with heart, integrity and selflessness," George said of Rowe. He also praised Katherine Jackson's attorneys for their part in bringing about the agreement.

Michael Jackson's two oldest children -- Michael Joseph Jackson Jr., 12, and Paris-Michael Katherine Jackson, 11 -- signed consents to the agreement.

He also has a 7-year-old son, Michael Joseph Jackson II, known as Blanket, with an unidentified surrogate.

The custody agreement does not involve any financial payments to Rowe "apart from the continuation of spousal support payments" that Michael Jackson personally agreed to make to Rowe after the divorce, their lawyers said in a joint statement. Video Watch Rowe's attorney talk about the decision »

Jackson's children have been living with their paternal grandmother at her Encino, California, home since their father's death June 25.

Also at the hearing Monday, attorneys for Jackson's dermatologist, Dr. Arnold Klein, said he sought a role in the children's lives and wanted "in some way to be involved" in respect to their education and medical care, although he was not objecting to the custody agreement. But Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff denied Klein's request to be a party to the hearing.

Details of how the children were conceived and who was the biological father have been closely guarded amid much public speculation.

In an interview last month on ABC's "Good Morning America," Klein did not rule out being the biological father of the children.

"Not to the best of my knowledge," he said when asked by Diane Sawyer whether he was the father. "All I can tell you is, best of my knowledge, I am not the father of these children. But I am telling you, if push comes to shove, I can't say anything."

Asked about Klein's attorneys saying he wants a role in the children's lives, George declined comment. Klein was not in the hearing Monday.

Rowe and Jackson divorced in 1999, with Rowe giving him full custody while she got an $8.5 million settlement, according to court documents. Jackson later agreed to additional support.

Rowe gave up parental rights to Jackson in 2001, but she changed her mind more than two years later and sought temporary custody of the children. A California appeals court ruled that her rights were improperly terminated, opening the door for a possible custody battle.

On Monday, Beckloff awarded Katherine Jackson all of the family allowance funds she requested but gave only 83.5 percent of what she requested in support of the children.

He said he disallowed money for one item, which he described as "quite a large amount" that he was not sure was necessary. The allowance order is sealed.

Beckloff set a hearing to revisit the allowance matter in January.

Also Monday, Beckloff ordered Katherine Jackson be given copies of her son's contracts in connection with a series of concerts that had been scheduled for this summer.

She sought the contracts between Michael Jackson and AEG, the company that was organizing and promoting the concerts, along with others involved in the tour. She has agreed to keep the contract provisions confidential.

Sharing of the contracts was a major point of contention between Katherine Jackson and the two men who control her son's estate: John Branca, Michael Jackson's longtime personal attorney, and John McClain, a music industry executive and longtime friend.

Branca's attorney argued in a court filing that his client had no choice but to request confidentiality from Katherine Jackson, since the contracts have a provision keeping them confidential.

Katherine Jackson has also challenged the two men named as executors of her son's will. However, Beckloff did not rule on that matter Monday, saying he would like attorneys for the two sides to attempt to reach a resolution on their own.

The attorneys conferred on the estate dispute during a morning recess that stretched to more than 90 minutes without reaching an agreement.

Lawyers for Branca and McClain suggested Beckloff appoint them as executors of the will, but Beckloff instead extended their appointment as special administrators of Jackson's estate for another 60 days while he considers Katherine Jackson's objections.

"We believe the judge did the right thing," Branca's attorney, Howard Weitzman, told reporters after the hearing.

"We're quite pleased that the judge did what was appropriate." He took no questions.

During Monday's hearing, Beckloff asked one of her attorneys, Burt Levitch, if there was any objection to admitting the will for probate -- without deciding who its executors will be. Beckloff noted that no one has come forward to object to the terms of the will itself. Levitch agreed, and Beckloff officially admitted the will for probate. The action starts a 120-day clock running for the will to be probated.

The will, written in 2002, places all of Michael Jackson's assets into a family trust benefiting his mother, his three children and unnamed charities.

Katherine Jackson's attorneys filed a petition last week accusing the men who now control the estate of being "intent on keeping her in the dark" about deals they've made or are negotiating. Londell McMillan, Jackson's lead attorney, raised questions about "a suspicious circle of relationships" involving Branca and McClain.

Katherine Jackson is asking the judge to order Branca, McClain and others to answer questions under oath about their business agreements to determine if they are "fit and able" to administer the estate. The men also were served with a 19-page demand for documents, including the AEG contracts.

Branca's lawyers argued that Katherine Jackson's demand for documents is too broad and burdensome. But, McMillan said, "such measures will not be necessary if Mrs. Jackson is appointed a co-executor of the estate."

Beckloff expressed concern, however, about delaying the appointment of executors for too long, since they must deal with any creditors to the estate that come forward.


McMillan, in an interview with CBS Thursday, estimated the Jackson estate was worth $2 billion, while the executors have estimated in court that its value is around $500 million.

The next hearings in the matter are scheduled for August 10 and August 28 to deal with safe harbor motions. Katherine Jackson wants Beckloff to set aside a provision in her son's will that anyone who challenges its terms can be dropped from the will.

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