A Los Angeles judge has approved a request to make Michael Jackson's nephew TJ, former member of pop trio 3T, permanent co-guardian of the late singer's three children following weeks of family drama.
Jackson's kids, Paris, Prince and Blanket, found themselves in the middle of a dispute last month when their grandmother Katherine, who was named in the King of Pop's will as their guardian, flew to Arizona last month to visit family at a resort. Her nephew reported her missing and Paris ranted about her absence, which appeared to be unprecedented, on her Twitter page.
Their cousin TJ was then made the children's temporary guardian. Katherine returned to Los Angeles, where she lives with the kids, after 10 days. She and TJ then settled the custody matter in court. Katherine was reinstated as guardian and TJ was made a temporary co-guardian.
A judge made his role permanent on Wednesday, August 22, at a hearing at a Los Angeles court. TJ appeared in person but Jackson's children and their grandmother did not.
"It's clear to me that the children have a very strong, loving relationship with TJ and that they love the grandmother very much," the judge said.
The judge also asked Katherine's attorney if she is being unduly influenced to agree with the new co-guardianship agreement, to which the lawyer replied "absolutely not! Ms. Jackson is well informed, makes her own decisions and wholeheartedly supports this arrangement."
The judge also ordered TJ to consider visitation between the kids and the singer's cousin, Debra Jackson, and her son Anthony. Debra had appeared in court and asked that TJ's appointment as co-guardian be delayed, claiming that she and her son were cut off abruptly from the lives of Jackson's children and were never told why.
"You have a right to be heard as relatives and I'm going to be mindful of what I heard", the judge said. "There have been lots of conflicts within the family, and the duties of the guardians consist in navigate through these conflicts and help the children maintain important relationships."
Diana Ross, who Jackson had made a backup guardian for the children, had told the judge in a letter that she has met TJ, thinks he has good intentions with regard to the care of the kids and is very interested in what happens with them. She added that she takes her role in the will as the next guardian in line very seriously.
Katherine had said she was kept from communicating with outsiders while she was at the Arizona resort. She claimed she was flown to the spa on doctor's orders and that her cell phone and iPad were taken away and that she stayed in a room without a working phone or television.
Her trip came at the heels of a dispute about Jackson's will between his siblings. One of them, singer Janet Jackson, later released a statement saying that she and her brother Randy and sister Rebbie "have questioned the validity of the will with no financial motive whatsoever."