Michael Jackson and Debbie Rowe
Danny Moloshok/AP; AP
A fierce custody battle is brewing over two of Michael Jackson's children, with their mother relaying word Thursday that she plans to fight for them in court, and the Jackson family signaling they will fight right back.
Debbie Rowe, the mother of Prince, 12, and Paris, 11, spoke to her former attorney Iris Finsilver, who says, "She is going to be pursuing custody of the children."
"Frankly, she won't have to fight for them," Finsilver tells PEOPLE. "She is the children's biological mother. She loves her children."
The kids, along with a third child, Prince Michael II (Blanket), 7, whose mother is unknown, are in the temporary court-ordered care of Jackson family matriarch Katherine Jackson, 79, whom the singer named as guardian in his 2002 will
. (Diana Ross was also named, in the event that Katherine is unwilling or able to care for the kids.)
A custody hearing is set for July 13, and Katherine will keep the children until at least then. A source close to the Jackson family says they intend to seek permanent custody. "They will fight," says the source.
Rowe earlier made her position clear in an interview with a Los Angeles television station, saying, "I want my children."
"I am stepping up," she told a reporter for Los Angeles station NBC 4
in a 90-minute phone conversation. "I have to."
Rowe also said she'd be willing to take custody of Blanket to keep the three children together, and she may seek a restraining order to keep her former father-in-law, Joe Jackson, away from her children.
Later, Rowe's current attorney left open the possibility that she could change her position. Calling her remarks to the TV station a "single snapshot of a single conversation," lawyer Eric George said, "Debbie has not reached a final decision concerning the pending custody proceedings."