As followers of the frequently bizarre Jackson family saga know, the former dermatology nurse – who was married to Jackson from 1996 to 1999 – gave her pop star husband sole custody of Michael Joseph "Prince" Jackson Jr., 16, and Paris-Michael Katherine Jackson, 15, in the divorce.
Rowe, 54, was awarded $8 million in the settlement and, except for occasional visits with her children, steered clear of the family. She settled in Palmdale, Calif., about an hour outside Los Angeles, breeding horses and zealously guarding her privacy.
But now, as a multi-million dollar wrongful death trial pitting the Jackson clan against concert promoter AEG Live gets underway in Los Angeles, Rowe has resurfaced. And sources say she's grown particularly close to the daughter she never really knew.
In recent weeks, Rowe has spent an increasing amount of time with Paris Jackson – watching her perform in her school play, taking her out to lunch, and hosting her at her Palmdale ranch. Once alienated from her former in-laws, Rowe has the blessing of Paris's grandmother and legal co-guardian, Katherine Jackson, who sees her as a good influence.
"Paris has been going through a lot of teenage angst and feels a little bit unloved," says a source. "So about three months ago Paris reached out to her mother and told her she wanted to establish a relationship with her. Debbie was open to it, and Katherine Jackson is supportive of the developing relationship."
Since then, Paris has spent two weekends with Rowe in Palmdale, helping her with her horses. "She's enjoyed telling friends in L.A. how she's helping take care of a pregnant mare on the ranch, and even how she was recently chased by a chicken."
Unlike his younger sister, Prince Michael Jackson has not embraced his biological mother.
"He has anger issues with her," says the source. "He feels like she abandoned him years ago."
Indeed, in recent times the source says that Paris and Prince are not as close as they used to be, partly because of Paris's relationship with her mother.
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"Right now Paris is happy with the situation as it is," says the source about budding the mother-daughter relationship. "It's even looking like at some point Paris will want to move in with Debbie."
Both Paris and Prince Michael are expected to take the stand in the wrongful death trial now underway.
Reporting by JESSICA HERNDON and CHAMP CLARK