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Jackson often shrouded his children, including Prince Michael Jackson Jr. and Paris Michael Katherine.
They were forced to wear surgical masks to hide their faces, prevented from going to school and reportedly forbidden from using the same silverware twice by their eccentric, superstar father.
Now the fate of Michael Jackson's three children, who have grown up in the King of Pop's bizarre world, is unclear. In the days since the singer's sudden death, his children have been in the care of the Jackson clan's 79-year-old matriarch. But exactly who will gain custody of them remains is not known.
Photographed by paparazzi as they followed Jacko on shopping trips around the world, the kids -- Michael Joseph Jackson, 12, Paris Michael Katherine Jackson, 11, and Prince Michael Jackson II, 7 -- have had unconventional childhoods by any standard. They've lived most of their lives in the reclusive singer's former theme park/home, the Neverland ranch.
While their father tried to protect them from the harsh glare of the spotlight that robbed him of his childhood, the children may soon be front and center in a complicated and wide-ranging custody battle.
"I suspect that the death of Michael Jackson is only the beginning of the legal battles over not only his property, but also his children," Brian Oxman, Jackson family's longtime lawyer, told CBS's The Early Show.
Oxman said the kids are with grandmother Katherine Jackson for now, and that she loves them all dearly. But she may not get first dibs. It is believed that the singer put away millions of dollars in trust funds for the children, and the prospect of raising them in style and luxury could inspire other claims.
Debbie Rowe, a nurse Jackson met while getting treatment for his skin condition and later married, bore the first two kids. During a custody fight with Jackson in 2005, she appeared to relinquish her parental rights, saying that in the event of Jackson's death, "I'm sure he has a wonderful person in mind to take care of them. "
But TMZ reported that a judge who agreed with her request later reversed his decision. Because no parental fitness investigation of Rowe was ever conducted, as is required under California law, Rowe's rights are intact, the website said.
The mother of Jackson's third child, Prince Michael Jackson II, known as Blanket, has never been identified. Jackson said the child was the result of artificial insemination of a surrogate mother with his sperm. It was Blanket who Jackson infamously dangled from a Berlin balcony in November, 2002, sparking international outrage.
The person with the closest relationship to all three children is perhaps Grace Rwaramba, the children's nanny and Jackson's close confidant.
"Michael always said he wants Grace, the nanny, to have them if something happened to him," Stacey Brown, co- author of "Michael Jackson Behind the Mask" and a long-time family friend, told ABC News. "[His] wishes were known. He wants Grace to have the kids. They love her."
Yet another possibility is Mark Lester, the children's godfather, who said he would be willing to adopt the children but doubted the family would allow him. In an interview with MSNBC, Lester said he had no plans to seek custody.
"If called to do so of course I would," he said. "Michael has a large family. I'm sure the children will be well looked after."