Katherine Jackson Made Permanent Guardian of Michael's Kids

Despite objection by Michael's dermatologist, grandmother gets custody.

ByLuchina Fisher, Lauren Pearle, Russell Goldman, and Eileen Murphy
July 31, 2009, 4:48 PM

Aug. 3, 2009 — -- As expected, Katherine Jackson was granted permanent guardianship of her son Michael's three children during a hearing Monday that also included a last-minute objection by the dermatologist of the late King of Pop.

In court Monday morning, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff approved Jackson's guardianship petition, saying it was in the "best interest of the children."

Beckloff stated in court that the two older children, Prince and Paris, and Jackson's estranged husband, Joe Jackson, all signed consent forms supporting Jackson's bid for guardianship.

The judge also granted Katherine Jackson's full request for an allowance for her. But Beckloff only granted her 83.5 percent of the amount she requested to go toward raising the kids, saying there was some "duplication." Monetary figures were sealed and not released to the public.

The judge's ruling came after a few tense moments in which an attorney for Michael's longtime dermatologist Dr. Arnold Klein raised non-specific objections to the custody arrangements.

"Legally, he is not a presumed parent," the attorney Mark Vincent Kaplan told the judge, stating that Klein had concerns about the children's education and other day-to-day parenting issues, based on his "long-standing involvement with the children."

Last month, Klein denied tabloid rumors that he is the biological father of Michael's children. "To the best of my knowledge, I am not the father of these children," Klein told ABC News' Diane Sawyer in a "Good Morning America" exclusive. "I can't answer it in any other way. I don't want to feed any of this insanity that is going around."

The judge also preserved the parental rights of Debbie Rowe, Michael's ex-wife and the mother of Prince and Paris, giving her "meaningful visitation" with the children. Rowe and Jackson reached an out-of-court agreement giving her "meaningful visitation" rights in exchange for permanent custody for Jackson.

"Today, the parties in the California court brought about a result that is selfless and wise through a process that was collaborative and fair," Rowe's attorney Eric George told reporters outside the courtroom. "Everyone sought the same objective, doing what's best for the children of Debbie Rowe and Michael Jackson. Today's result, five-and-a-half weeks after the tragic death of Michael Jackson, eliminates uncertainty and offers some stability to the lives of these children."

George also applauded his client. "She faced difficulties and pressures none of us know," he said, "and today's agreement shows that she responded with heart, integrity and selflessness."

Katherine Jackson's lawyer Diane Goodman stated in court that Michael's youngest child, son Blanket, was born to a surrogate who has no parental rights.

Jackson was accompanied in the courtroom by daughter LaToya and Rebbie and son Randy.

The parties will be back in court on October 2nd to review the "investigator's report," which will assess how the kids are doing and what kind of "meaningful visitation" Prince and Paris will have with Rowe.

Jackson's Wealth Draws Controversy Over Executors

Later in the morning, Judge Beckloff accepted Michael's 2002 will into probate, although he did not rule on who would be the executors or administrators of the estate.

Katherine Jackson appears to be vying for some control of the multi-million-dollar estate and possibly a position as co-executor.

Some see it as an attempt to wrest control of her son's fortune from the two men he handpicked to oversee his legacy.

Rather than contest the will outright -- a risky maneuver that if unsuccessful would cost Jackson the money she already is assured -- the family is instead trying to raise questions about the legitimacy of the executors Michael named in his will.

Aside from Jackson's children, Katherine Jackson was the only member of the family named in Jackson's will.

As a co-executor she, and by extension her husband Joe Jackson, would have a hand in how Michael Jackson's money and estate will be handled in the future -- a role Jackson did not want his family members to have. If named a co-executor of the estate, Katherine Jackson would also be entitled to a sizeable executor's fee.

Jackson's lawyers last week signaled a potential battle for control of the estate, raising questions in the media about the authenticity of the will and filing documents in court to squeeze information from the two men Jackson named executors in his 2002 will -- longtime manager John Branca and lawyer John McClain.

"The question," Jackson's lawyer Londell McMillan said July 31 on CBS's "The Early Show," "is what happened to this will in 2002? How come no one knew about it? How come Mrs. Jackson didn't know about it? How come I didn't know about it? How come we learned about it the day we filed a petition in court stating he died without a will?"

In a statement released to the media on July 29, McMillan tried to portray the executors as a shady pair, trying to keep the family in the dark. He called the will "unnotarized" and the trust "undisclosed" and said he wanted to "gain more facts concerning a suspicious circle of relationships."

McMillan also has suggested that the executors have not been completely upfront with the Jackson family. He recently served subpoenas and deposition notices to Branca and McClain, seeking to make them disclose information regarding their knowledge of a deal Michael Jackson made with concert promoter AEG to perform 50 shows in London this year.

McMillan has accused the executors of denying Katherine Jackson access to "critical" documents like the contract the singer signed with AEG, which he called "of great potential significance to the estate."

Sources said McMillan and Joe Jackson want to see the AEG contract because they believe it will reveal something that will open the door to a civil case, namely that Michael Jackson signed on to fewer than 50 shows.

Those same sources said that the executors have shared the contract with the Jacksons and there is nothing to hide.

Beckloff ruled that Katherine Jackson should get to review the late pop star's contracts, like the one with AEG, subject to a protective order. This means the contracts probably won't become public.

Her lawyer indicated that law enforcement officials might have an interest in seeing the contracts. The AEG lawyer said it would share the information with the LAPD, if asked.

At the time of his death, Michael Jackson was over $300 million in debt, but according to The Associated Press has a net worth around $236 million.

According to the AP's accounting, Jackson had $567.6 million in assets, including his share of the Sony/ATV Music Publishing catalogue, which includes the rights to songs by the Beatles.

But McMillan said the singer was worth far more than that.

"That estate," he told CBS, "is worth, in my estimation, a couple of billion dollars. You hear $500 million. Don't buy it."

As the custody battle settles, a spiritual one could replace it. Sources close to Debbie Rowe told ABC News that she is concerned the children may not be raised Catholic, as the sources said Michael Jackson wanted, "Good Morning America" reported today.

Though Michael Jackson's children were reportedly baptized in a Catholic church in 2003, Katherine Jackson, a devout Jehovah's Witness, has been taking the kids to her church since their father's death.

An investigation into Jackson's June 25 death is ongoing.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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