TJ Jackson, Michael Jackson's nephew, son of Tito and former member of pop trio 3T, has been appointed the temporary guardian of the late King of Pop's three children due to the absence of their grandmother Katherine.
The 82-year-old matriarch recently traveled to Arizona to visit family members amid what appears to be a growing family feud with the executors of Jackson's some $1 billion estate. The singer left his entire fortune to Katherine and his sons Prince and Blanket and daughter Paris. A judge suspended her as the children's guardian on Wednesday, July 25, saying she is unable to perform her duties.
"There are only three words I want to say: Always kids first!" TJ told reporters at the Los Angeles court, according to KABC Television, OnTheRedCarpet.com's parent company.
When asked if he wanted grandma home he responded, smiling: "That too!"
TJ said he spoke with Katherine on Tuesday. He said she sounded strange, and that she used words he had never heard her use and that her voice sounded slurred at times, according to the Associated Press.
It was also decided that Jackson's children cannot leave California without a court order. Diana Ross, who Jackson had named as his kids' backup guardian, and Debbie Rowe, Prince and Paris' birth mother, will receive 48 hours notice of the guardianship change.
TJ, the 34-year-old son of Jackson's brother Tito, had helped look after the children in Katherine's absence. His attorney said that he is not trying to replace the matriarch permanently.
ABC News reported that Katherine called her grandchildren late on Tuesday after not speaking with them for days and added that Jackson's sister Janet and brother Jermaine have flown to Arizona to meet with her.
The news comes days after a scuffle among family members at Katherine's Los Angeles-area home, where the children live. Police were called to investigate a report about a physical disturbance between two people. No arrests were made. ABC News said siblings Randy, Jermaine and Janet Jackson showed up and apparently tried to take away the kids. Paris recently denied a report that said Janet slapped her.
Her uncle Randy Jackson told ABC's "Good Morning America" on Wednesday, July 15: "There was no slapping, no calling of names. This is all meant to take attention from the question that has not been answered [about Michael Jackson's will]."
Katherine has not commented about the situation. It is unclear when precisely she flew to Arizona, but over the weekend, her absence spurred her nephew, Trent Jackson, to report her missing to Los Angeles authorities. She was later found to be in Arizona with other relatives and authorities closed the case.
Her estate attorney told ABC News that he traveled to Tucson on Tuesday night to meet with Janet and Jermaine and check on Katherine's condition. He said he did not see her in person but that people staying with the matriarch assured him she was OK.
TJ's attorney told reporters that TJ's "desire is to have his grandma reunited with the children, to resume acting as guardian. But we heard that before ... she was due back here [last] Sunday."
He also said all three children are very much on board with TJ's appointment and that Prince, 15, and Paris signed a consent form. He added that Blanket, 10, is too young to do so but also agreed to the guardianship change.
Randy told "Good Morning America" on Wednesday morning that Katherine "is on her way back to Los Angeles," adding: "It was under doctor's orders that she go [away from L.A.]. Her health was really bad, and he wanted her to go somewhere where she couldn't be on the phone, and be cut off from the outside world for a few days."
He did not specify when she is set to return to California.
TJ Jackson and his brothers, Taj and Taryll, rose to fame in the 1990s as 3T, a pop trio that was also dubbed a boy band. They were mostly famous in Europe and also released a single featuring Michael called "Why" in 1996.