Debbie Rowe Files Suit Over Custody Rumors

Jackson kids' mom: Woman faked e-mails to claim I'm motivated by money.

July 10, 2009, 6:05 PM

July 17, 2009— -- The mother of the late Michael Jackson's two oldest children is suing a woman who, her attorneys claim, fueled false rumors her main motivation in considering a custody battle over the children was money.

Debbie Rowe, Jackson's ex-wife, is suing Rebecca White of Florida, alleging defamation, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress, according to papers filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

White told the television show "Extra" and its Web site that Rowe's possible claims on the children were motivated by money, and that she had e-mails from Rowe suggesting Rowe did not truly want custody of the kids.

The remarks and e-mails were reported by several media outlets. But the court papers filed late Thursday claimed the e-mails in question were fakes.

Rowe's suit conceded there were e-mails between Rowe and White before Jackson's death about topics including "potential visits, the weather and Ms. White's attempt to purchase a home," but that, "the e-mails do not discuss Mr. Jackson, his children or his family." It added that Rowe did not answer two subsequent e-mails from White.

"In fact, Ms. Rowe did not send any e-mails to Ms. White at any time after Mr. Jackson's death on June 25, 2009," the document said.

The court filing did not specify an amount of money Rowe was seeking in her suit, though it said Rowe filed suit after White did not respond to an e-mailed demand for a public retraction.

White could not immediately be reached for comment.

A source close to Rowe earlier denied reports that she was seeking millions of dollars to forego a custody battle.

"Debbie Rowe has not sought and would not accept one additional penny beyond the spousal support she and Michael personally agreed to years ago," a source with direct knowledge of Rowe's position told ABC News.

Rowe is the mother of Jackson's two oldest children, Prince, 12, and Paris, 11.

Jackson also has a third child, 7-year-old son Prince Michael II, better known as Blanket, who was born to an unknown surrogate.

Rowe was reacting to media reports, including from ABC's "Good Morning America," that suggested she was negotiating for a multimillion-dollar settlement to abandon a potentially lengthy custody battle over Prince and Paris.

Jackson family confidant Stacy Brown told "GMA" that Rowe's request for money was part of the custody negotiations.

"One family member said $3 million, another said $5 million. My guess is that it will be somewhere in between," Brown told ABC News.

In a letter to the New York Post, which reported that "Debbie Rowe has sold her kids" to Michael Jackson's mother for $4 million, Rowe's lawyer Eric George demanded a retraction.

"There has been no agreement reached between Ms. Rowe and the Jacksons," George wrote, saying there was no deal on custody or visitation rights.

"Ms. Rowe has not and will not give up her parental rights," the lawyer wrote.

Referring to the alleged $4 million settlement, George wrote, "Ms. Rowe has not accepted -- and will not accept -- any additional financial consideration beyond the spousal support she and Michael Jackson personally agreed to several years ago."

Rowe received a hefty settlement when she divorced Jackson in 1999. As part of that settlement, Rowe agreed to allow Jackson to have custody of their two children.

Transcripts of a 2005 custody hearing, obtained by the Web site TMZ, spell out what has long been assumed: Rowe received a sizeable settlement to stay out of the children's lives when the couple divorced in 1999.

In the 2005 custody hearing, Jackson's lawyer Thomas Hall told Judge Stephen Lachs, "Mr. Jackson was under an agreement with petitioner [Rowe] here, which he was to pay her -- did pay her about $4 [million] or $5 million up front, gave her a mansion in Beverly Hills, and then was to pay $900,000 a year for a number of years if she abided by agreement terms."

That 2005 hearing also restored Rowe's parental rights she had relinquished. Though she never had custody of the children, her restored rights give her legal standing to now pursue custody following Jackson's death.

Jackson's 2002 will granted custody of the children to his mother Katherine Jackson, 79. In the aftermath of Jackson's death, Rowe, who had been absent from her children's lives for a decade, indicated she might pursue custody again.

Lawyers indicated they delayed a custody hearing Monday to continue to hammer out a deal.

"We are pleased that the child custody hearing has been continued over until July 20 to further our progress and allow us to privately and amicably resolve this most important matter in a dignified manner for the benefit of the children first and all involved," Katherine Jackson's lawyer, L. Londell McMillan, said in a statement to The Associated Press.

Sources said Rowe wanted increased visitation rights and for the Jackson family to pledge that Joe Jackson, the children's grandfather whom Michael accused of abuse, would not get custody in the future.

Rowe raised speculation there could be a custody battle when she told a Los Angeles television station four days after Jackson died, "I want my children."

George later tried to temper those comments, maintaining for weeks that "Debbie has not reached a final decision on the pending custody proceeding."

Another source close to Rowe previously told that Rowe was considering seeking custody because she believed Katherine Jackson was too old to care for the children and because she did not want them near Joe Jackson.

ABC News' Michael S. James and Marilyn Heck contributed to this report.