Jackson and Ex-Wife Hire a Judge

02/25/2004 at 07:03 PM EST

Michael Jackson's role as a father may be changing, based on court documents that were revealed this week.

Jackson and his ex-wife, Deborah Rowe, have retained the services of a retired judge to assist the former couple in what has been called "an unspecified family law matter," the Associated Press reports. The matter is thought to concern the former couple's two children, Prince Michael, 7, and Paris, 5. The two children are believed to live with Jackson.

According to a court document filed on Friday, a judge okayed an agreement by Jackson and Rowe to enlist a retired Los Angeles Superior Court judge to help them settle a civil dispute privately.

A family law expert not involved with the case told AP, "They hire private judges so that everything can be done behind closed doors."

Rowe allegedly wants to change the terms of the couple's custody agreement -- a request that would not be unusual considering the child-molestation charges Jackson is facing.

Any decision handed down by a private judge is as binding as if it were handed down in family court, AP reports. The added benefit for a high-profile couple is that the decision remains private as well.

Jackson and Rowe were married from 1996 until 1999 when Rowe filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences. Jackson has another son, Prince Michael II, who is believed to be about 10 months old.

The mother of Jackson's third child is not known.

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