Sat, Jul 04, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Ex-wife’s custody bid looming over Jackson memorial

REUTERS , LOS ANGELES

Pop star Michael Jackson’s ex-wife Debbie Rowe cast a shadow over the unveiling of plans on Friday for the King of Pop’s memorial service next week, as a legal battle shapes up over custody of their children.

Rowe told a Los Angeles TV station on Thursday that she wanted to care for her two children with Jackson, and a court hearing over guardianship — temporarily awarded to Jackson’s 79-year-old mother, Katherine Jackson — was delayed one week.

But Rowe’s attorney said his client’s words were distorted in the interview and she “has not reached a final decision” about whether to battle her ex-husband’s mother in court.

An elaborate public memorial for Jackson, who died last week, will be held on Tuesday in Los Angeles, and about 11,000 tickets will be given away for the service at the 20,000-seat Staples Center.

Concert promoter and Jackson backer AEG Live said the service was set for 10am at the rock concert and sporting venue in downtown Los Angeles, and that further details were to be unveiled yesterday.

Jackson’s death last Thursday after suffering cardiac arrest at his rented Los Angeles mansion has prompted tributes from fans and musicians worldwide and sent many of his records back into the top of music charts.

Meanwhile Rowe — the mother of Jackson’s two eldest children, Prince Michael Jackson Jr, 12, and Paris Michael Katherine Jackson, 11 — appeared to be setting the stage for a legal wrangle with Jackson’s parents over their future.

“I want my children,” Rowe was quoted as telling NBC4 TV in Los Angeles.

But her lawyer, Eric George, told reporters on Thursday that Rowe was still considering her position.

“I am representing to you now, Debbie has not reached a final decision concerning the pending custody proceedings,” George said.

“I have no reason to doubt that what was reported from that conversation was accurately and ethically recorded, but that said, it would be a distortion of the truth to allow that single snapshot of a single conversation to stand as the truth of Debbie’s position,” he said.

A court hearing on guardianship originally set for this Monday has been changed to July 13.

Temporary guardianship was granted earlier this week to Jackson’s mother. A 2002 will signed by Jackson specifically cut Rowe out of his estate and asked that his mother take care of the children.

Celebrity magazine People characterized the brewing legal dispute as a “fierce custody battle” and said Rowe spoke to her former attorney Iris Finsilver, who said of the conversation: “She is going to be pursuing custody of the children.”

Although details of Tuesday’s memorial service have yet to be unveiled, Los Angeles media said Jackson’s family may hold a service at the Forest Lawn Mortuary then motorcade to Staples Center.

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