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Michael Jackson’s ex-wife demands child custody, memorial in LA

Article published on the 2009-07-03 Latest update 2009-07-03 10:03 TU

Michael Jackson in 2005.(Photo: Reuters)

Michael Jackson in 2005.
(Photo: Reuters)

Michael Jackson's ex-wife, Debbie Rowe, declared Thursday that she will seek custody of his two eldest children, Prince Michael, 12, and Paris, 11, as his family announced that a memorial service will be held in Los Angeles on Tuesday.

“I want my children,” Rowe told NBC television in a phone interview. “I am stepping up. I have to.”

But Rowe’s lawyer Eric George later told reporters in a conference call that no final decision to file for custody had been made.

Rowe was married to Jackson between 1996 and 1999 but reportedly has not had contact with the children for years. In his will, Jackson named his mother, Katherine Jackson, as their temporary guardian,  along with their seven-year-old brother, Prince Michael II, known as  “Blanket”, whose mother is an unidentified surrogate. He wanted singer Diana Ross to have custody if his mother was unable to do so.

A custody hearing slated for Monday was rescheduled to 13 July, at the request of lawyers on both sides.

Michael Jackson’s family has meanwhile announced a free public memorial at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The family, who had earlier disappointed hundreds of fans by ruling out a funeral at the singer’s Neverland ranch, said that 11,000 tickets for the memorial would be distributed for free.

An announcement concerning the logistics of ticket distribution will be made on Friday.

The mansion where Jackson met his death will also become a public memorial site, according to French fashion mogul Christian Audigier,  who designed clothing for Jackson.

Audigier declared that he will buy the vast Los Angeles estate with the aim of converting it into “a place dedicated to the memory of the star to which the public and fans will have access,” his spokesperson Laurent Guyot told the AFP news agency.