Jacko and Rowe negotiate ''family law matter.'' They've hired a private mediator to resolve a dispute, reportedly over child custody

By Gary Susman
Updated February 25, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST

Debbie Rowe may not have had much contact with her two children since she and Michael Jackson were divorced five years ago, but that could change, now that the exes are involved in legal negotiations over an unspecified family matter. According to Los Angeles Superior Court documents filed Friday and obtained by The Smoking Gun, the divorced couple have engaged a private mediator to resolve a ”family law matter.” The Associated Press reports that the matter involves custody and visitation rights regarding their two children, Prince Michael I and Paris.

The mediator, retired Los Angeles Superior Court judge Stephen Lachs, will arbitrate the dispute behind closed doors, at a cost to the couple of $650 per hour, according to the New York Daily News. The result will be as binding as a court ruling but will be shielded from the public.

Jackson has had sole custody of the children since the 1999 divorce. Last year, she praised Jackson’s parenting during one of the many 2003 Jackson TV specials. In recent months, however, Jackson has been charged with molesting a boy who was a frequent visitor to Neverland (charges Jackson has called ”a big lie”), and he has surrounded himself with advisers and security staffers from the Nation of Islam, a situation which reportedly hasn’t sat well with Rowe, who is Jewish. A source close to Rowe tells ”Entertainment Tonight” that she will argue that the 1999 custody agreement should be scrapped because Jackson has allegedly violated its terms.