A Los Angeles judge named Michael Jackson's mother as permanent guardian of the star's children Monday, ignoring a surprise late bid by the singer's dermatologist to have a say in their upbringing.
Lawyers for Katherine Jackson, 79, and the King of Pop's ex-wife Debbie Rowe had last week agreed details of custody arrangements concerning children Prince Michael, 12, Paris, 11 and Prince Michael II, 7.
But what was expected to be a straightforward hearing to approve the agreement on Monday took a bizarre turn when an attorney for Jackson's skin doctor Arnold Klein appeared at the hearing.
Lawyer Mark Vincent Kaplan said Klein wanted to "have a voice" in issues concerning the children's "education, healthcare and welfare."
Asked repeatedly by Judge Mitchell Beckloff to state what Klein's interest was, Kaplan said it was due to his client's "longstanding relationship with the children and long-standing relationship with Mr Jackson."
Klein was "not a presumed parent," Kaplan said, although Monday's twist is likely to stir up fresh speculation about whether the doctor is the biological father of Jackson's eldest two children.
In interviews last month, Klein refused to categorically deny that he was the children's father. "All I can tell you is, to the best of my knowledge, I am not the father of these children," Klein told ABC television.
Judge Beckloff appeared to disregard Klein's request on Monday as a move by "nothing more than a concerned friend" before inking the custody agreement.
"It's in the best interests of the minors," Beckloff said, adding that Klein would have to file a formal request if he wanted to challenge the details of the custody agreement.
Under the terms of the deal, Katherine Jackson, who attended Monday's hearing, gets permanent custody while Rowe receives visitation rights to Prince Michael and Paris, born during her 1996-1999 marriage to Jackson.
The surrogate mother of Jackson's third child, seven-year-old Prince Michael II -- known as "Blanket" -- has never been identified.
Rowe will receive no money beyond an existing spousal agreement, reportedly worth some 8.5 million dollars.
A lawyer for Rowe praised the conduct of the 50-year-old former nurse during the custody negotiations. Rowe did not attend Monday's hearing.
"Everyone sought the same objective -- doing what was best for the children of Debbie Rowe and Michael Jackson," attorney Eric George said.
"I want to applaud Debbie Rowe. She's faced difficulties and pressures none of us know, and today's agreement shows that she responded with heart, integrity and selflessness."
Beckloff meanwhile agreed to provide Katherine Jackson with an allowance, paid by the singer's estate, along with an allowance for the three children. The amount of the payments was not released, but the allowance for the children was only 83.5 percent of what attorneys had requested.
Beckloff said he questioned some of the costs and opted to reduce the amount, although he added: "It is not my intention to deprive the kids of anything that they're entitled to."
A further hearing has been scheduled for October 2 to "review the circumstances of the children" and ensure the custody arrangement has been successful, Beckloff said.
Katherine Jackson was named temporary guardian of her grandchildren at a court hearing in Los Angeles four days after her son's death on June 25.
A will drawn up by Michael Jackson in 2002 named his mother as the guardian of the youngsters, with Motown legend Diana Ross named as an alternate.
The three children have been staying with Katherine Jackson at the musical clan's compound since their father's death.
Meanwhile, lawyers for Katherine Jackson were involved in a separate hearing before the same judge on Monday seeking to obtain a bigger say in the administration of her son's estate.
Two business associates of Jackson were named as co-executors of the singer's fortune in a 2002 will. Lawyers for Katherine Jackson are reportedly seeking to have her named as an executor.
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