Michael Jackson’s Children and Their Parents

A little while back I allowed as how I would eventually get around to saying something about Michael Jackson and his children.   It’s a quiet Saturday, so this is it.

I have not kept up on the entire Michael Jackson saga, but here are the things I think I know.  (I trust someone will correct me if I have major points wrong.)   Jackson died, obviously.  At least one will has surfaced that leaves the bulk of his estate to his children.  

 Jackson was apparently legally the parent of three children:  12 year old Michael Jackson Jr, 11 year old Paris Michael Katherine Jackson, and 7 year old Prince Michael Jackson, II.   While no one seems to have raised any questions about this, I’m a bit curious about how he got to been recognized as such in all three cases.   

I’ve read several places (sorry not to have a link) that Jackson was not genetically related to any of the children.   The first two were born to his then-wife, Debbie Rowe.   His status as husband to Rowe, who gave birth, would make Jackson the legal parent to those children.    Alternatively, as with that recent Oregon case, he could be considered a parent by virtue of having agreed to the insemination of his wife.                                                    

The third child was apparently born to a surrogate, possibly in Europe.   It’s not clear where any of the genetic material used came from.   Perhaps Jackson is the parent by virtue of having hired the surrogate and purchased the required materials.  This would work where paid surrogacy is legal.   Perhaps he adopted the child.   As I say, I have seen no information on this and do wonder a bit.

Since Jackson’s death, one of the looming questions is where the children go now.  This has increased importance as if the children inherit substantial sums of money, being the caretaker for the children will necessarily entail access to a certain amount of wealth.  (This is not necessarily because the caretaker will control the estate directly, but the children will certainly live well, as will their caretaker.) 

It would seem that the older two children have a living parent–Debbie Rowe.  Thus, absent some unusual circumstances, the children would now live with her.   While she had apparently agreed to Jackson having sole custody, it does not appear that her rights were terminated.   I have seen reports in the past that Rowe agreed to Jackson’s sole custody in exchange to for award of a substantial sum of money.  Assuming this is true,  it does not mean that her rights as a parents can be terminated.   After all, even if this is what occurred, one could just as well condemn Jackson for purchasing sole custody as Rowe for selling it.   Further, it’s not really all that uncommon for financial arrangments and child custody arrangements to be negotiated simultaneously post-separation. 

Then there is the parentage of the youngest child.  It would appear from all I have read that as to this child, Jackson was a single-parent.  Thus, there is no surviving parent who is an automatically preferred custodian for this child.   (I’m tempted here to harken back to the earlier comments about whether Rowe “sold” her children.   For as to the third child is seems fairly clear that Jackson essentially bought (or at least commissioned) one.)  

Apparently Jackson himself named Diana Ross as a guardian for the children.   Children, however, are not property and cannot be “left” to someone as a part of a will.  Neither am I aware of any response by Ross.  

Jackson’s mother, Katherine, who is in her 70s, has been awarded temporary guardianship of all three children.  The more permanent arrangements are apparently under negotiation, although it would seem necessary in the end for any deal to be subject to court review.  

Whatever the outcome, it is hard not to see the children as bits of the Jackson estate.  I have read little to nothing describing their lives or their attachments to various adults who might play a parental role.  I know that the middle child spoke quite emotionally at Jackson’s service.  I’m just not sure what to make of that.  Perhaps Jackson was an engaged parent to his children.   But what becomes of them now?   Is there another parent?  Who and why?   And if not, how is a court to decide?


2 responses to “Michael Jackson’s Children and Their Parents

  1. cynthia davis

    interesting article..

    Mamas vs. Papas: Two gay couples fight over custody of child
    Biological dad has “no rights,” judge says.
    Share By Natalie O’Neill
    Published on July 14, 2009 at 12:47pmJason Crosby
    gay couples fight for custody of child, gay rights, child custodyTwo dads face off against two moms. It’s perhaps the most unique custody battle in recent Florida history and maybe the most radical verdict. Katherine Alicea and her eight-year partner, Ana Sobrino, decided to have a baby about a half-decade ago. Again and again, they tried using sperm from anonymous donors. But Katherine — a driven real estate agent then in her late 30s — couldn’t get pregnant.

    Enter their close friend, Ray Janssen, a handsome, gay Air Force veteran.

    After some casual negotiation, he donated and Katherine conceived. In August 2006, a sweet and burbling baby whom we’ll call Austin was born. Katherine put Ray’s name on the birth certificate because she wanted the child to know his dad’s identity.

    That was a big mistake.

    The baby was raised mostly by Katherine and Ana at their NE 24th Street home, a block from Biscayne Bay. But Ray and his partner Craig also spent time with the boy. “[Ray] made it clear he wanted to be involved in the child’s life,” counselor Sherrie Lewis-Thomas later wrote. He took Austin to baby music lessons. Sometimes the child would sleep over at his “da-da’s” Miami Beach apartment overlooking a canal.

    Then, last fall, the mothers decided to move to California, and things got ugly.

    Ray sued Katherine in November 2008. The case tells the story of two sets of gay parents — all of them loving and active in the child’s life — vying for custody. “Responsibility for the child should be awarded to the mother and father equally,” Ray demanded in the suit. “[I am] the natural father.”

    After considering arguments from both sides, Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Leon Firtel on June 3 found Ray was nothing more than a sperm donor. Because there was no contract before birth, he had “no rights.”

    Says Ray’s attorney, Gerald Kornreich: “[The ruling] is the most tragic of my career, and I will not rest until Ray is reunited with his son.”

    Opposing council Hugo Acebo responds that Ray surrendered his role when he let the mothers become primary caregivers: “Ray has changed his mind about his parental role… Katherine and Ana feel like their family unit is being attacked.”

    A motion for reconsideration is scheduled in circuit court this week

  2. @cynthia, Florida is the worst state for surrogacy. All gays should boycott Florida. Florida does not care about their LGBT citizens.

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