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Michael Jackson's death: Will Debbie Rowe get custody of two kids?

June 26, 2009 |  2:01 pm

Michael Jackson’s former wife, Debbie Rowe, is most likely to receive custody of the two children she bore when she was married to the late pop star, legal experts said today.

Although Rowe initially waived parental rights to the children, she later changed her mind, and an appeals court ruled she was the legal mother of Prince Michael Jr. and Paris Michael Katherine.

“When a child has two legal parents and one of them dies, the other takes custody,” said USC law professor Scott Altman.

To gain custody, other family members or individuals designated in Jackson's will as guardians would have to show that giving custody to Rowe would harm the children, Altman said. Such a decision might depend on the amount of contact she has had with them, he said.

A legal fight over Jackson’s children “seems almost inevitable,” Altman said. “It is very hard to reach amicable agreements over child custody in circumstances like that.”

UCLA law professor Grace Blumberg said she also expects Rowe to obtain custody of the elder children, even if Jackson designated another guardian in his will.

Blumberg said the surrogate mother of the youngest child, Prince Michael II, also might come forward to try to obtain custody of that child. If the surrogate mother lived in Europe when the child was born, European laws would apply, Blumberg said. She said many European countries do not recognize surrogate arrangements.

Iris Finsilver, a lawyer who represented Rowe in the custody case with Jackson, told the Associated Press that Rowe was inconsolable over Jackson’s death. The attorney said she had no doubt Rowe would seek custody.

Finsilver and lawyers for Jackson could not be reached for comment.

--Maura Dolan