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?