Debbie Rowe, Michael Jackson's Ex-Wife, Will Fight for Custody

Her stated goal defies Jackson's last wishes on who will care for kids.

July 02, 2009, 2:38 PM

July 2, 2009— -- "I want my children," Debbie Rowe, Michael Jackson's ex-wife and the estranged mother of his two oldest children, told KNBC-TV in Los Angeles today.

Though in the last decade she has had very little contact with the two children she had while married to Jackson, the former nurse vowed to fight for custody, defying Jackson's last wishes that the children be cared for by their grandmother.

A source close to Rowe told ABC News that she is worried about the guardians Jackson named for the children in his will and believes the "kids would be receptive to her."

An attorney for Rowe plans to attend an upcoming custody hearing in Los Angeles scheduled to review the order of temporary guardianship a judge granted the children's grandmother Katherine Jackson on June 29.

"[Rowe] is looking at a situation where the primary guardian is now 80 years old, the back up is Diana Ross who the children do not know," said a source close to Rowe who was not authorized to speak for attribution.

Getting custody of the children would also come with a lot of money, said the source.

"If she does request custody and that request is granted, she would obviously get all the money for their care, and it would require that she receive money from the estate because she would take over as guardian," he said.

Despite Rowe's comments to KNBC, her lawyer Eric George said Thursday that Rowe had not come to a final conclusion about seeking custody.

"The truth is Debbie has not reached a final decision on pending custody proceedings," he told reporters.

On June 29, four days after Michael Jackson, 50, suffered an apparent cardiac arrest in his Los Angeles rental home, a court granted temporary guardianship of Jackson's three children, who range in age from 7 to 12, to their grandmother, Katherine Jackson.

In Jackson's will, filed Wednesday in court, the pop star expressed his wishes that his mother, who is actually 79, be granted custody of the three children. He also named singer Diana Ross as a backup guardian if Katherine died or was unable to take care of the children.

In his will Jackson specified that none of his estate should go to Rowe. On Thursday new details emerged about the living trust, in which Jackson placed his estate.

Jackson's trust divides all his money and assets among his three children, his mother Katherine, and various children's charities, a source familiar with the estate told ABC News. He leaves nothing to his siblings, his father Joe Jackson, or anyone else, according to the source.

Katherine will get 40 percent of his assets, Michael's three kids will get another 40 percent, and the remain 20 percent goes to several children's charities that will be designated at a later date, a source close to the estate told ABC News.

The Will made public yesterday puts all of Michael Jackson's property into this trust, which is not public.

The trust is overseen by trustees John McClain and John Branca, the same men who are executors of Jackson's will.

Debbie Rowe's Concerns About Joe Jackson

Rowe is also worried, the source said, that Jackson's father, Joe, unnamed in the will but accused by the singer of abuse, would become the de facto father of the children.

"There is concern about Joe Jackson being around the kids," said the source.

Rowe told KNBC that she would seek a restraining order against Joe, the children's grandafather.

Rowe, 50, married Jackson in 1996 after meeting him while working as a nurse in the office of Jackson's dermatologist, Dr. Arnie Klein. She conceived son Prince Michael I, 12, and daughter Paris Michael Katherine, 11, through in vitro fertilization.

In February 2008, Rowe told British tabloid The Daily Mail that she had been artificially inseminated but would not give details as to whether the sperm belonged to Jackson or another man.

In photographs, the children appear to have distinctly white skin.

The couple were briefly married following Prince's conception but divorced six months after Paris' birth. 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.

In recent days, some in the media have suggested that while Rowe carried the children she might not be their biological mother.

Rowe told KNBC that she would submit to DNA testing to prove the kids were really her offspring.

Rowe gave Jackson sole custody of the children in 1999. Their divorce was finalized in April 2000, and she agreed to a multimillion-dollar settlement, according to court records. She stopped visiting the children six months later, because it "was not working out for various reasons," according to an appeals court ruling.

Though Rowe does not have custody of the children, in 2006 an appeals court reaffirmed her parental rights.

Those rights, lawyers said, gave her a case to pursue custody of the children, despite Jackson's stated wishes in his will that Katherine get custody.

The surviving parent, even if divorced and with limited contact with the children, usually has the strongest case for custody, lawyers said.

Though Rowe has reportedly not seen much of the children for more than a decade, she would still have "an advantage" should she seek custody, attorney Gloria Allred said.

Jackson's third child, a son named Prince Michael II but better known as Blanket, was conceived and carried by a surrogate mother whose name has never been released.

Rowe would not have a claim to the custody of that child.

Another source close to the Jackson family, told that a pending custody battle between the family and Rowe "could get ugly."

ABC News' Lauren Pearle contributed to this report.

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