Debbie Rowe is Michael Jackson’s second wife. The two were married from 1996-99 and had two children together during that period, Paris and Michael Jr.
Rowe lives in Palmdale, California, with her fiancé, music producer and former friend of Michael Jackson, Marc Schaffel. She has not commented on the latest documentary about Jackson.
In 2005, Rowe appeared in court amidst molestation allegations against Jackson (Jackson was later acquitted); per Biography, she said that Jackson was a good father and husband, but her testimony was later discredited when it became known that she had not seen Jackson or her children for several years.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Rowe Was a Nurse When She Met Jackson, & Reportedly Offered to Bear His Children
Rowe was working as a nurse when she met Jackson at a local dermatology clinic, ABC reports. According to Biography, Jackson confided in Rowe following his divorce to Lisa Marie Presley that he was afraid he would never have children. Rowe offered to bear his children, and they ended up having Paris and Michael Jr., a girl and a boy, over the three years of their marriage.
In a 2013 testimony in court, Rowe explained why she was willing to do this for Jackson, and why she gave him rights to sole custody after their divorce (though she later reversed this decision). Rowe said, via ABC, “Michael wanted to be a father. I didn’t sign on to be a mom. I loved him very much and I still do. I wanted him to be a father, to have everything he didn’t have growing up, to experience it with his own children.”
Rowe also testified that Jackson had said being a father was the thing he wanted most in the world, and that he paid for Rowe’s college tuition. Rowe said, “He helped whoever he could.”
According to Biography, Rowe and Jackson never lived together.
2. Rowe & Jackson Divorced in 1999; Rowe Received $8 Million in a Settlement
In 1999, after their second child was born, Jackson and Rowe divorced. Rowe had signed a prenuptial agreement; though the number varies, most publications estimate her divorce settlement to have been about $6-8 million, as well as ownership of their Beverly Hills mansion. Rowe has since sold the estate and now lives in Palmdale, California.
3. Rowe Filed to Terminate Her Parental Rights to Paris & Michael Jr. in 2001, Then Reversed the Decision in 2004
Following her divorce from Jackson, Rowe filed to terminate her parental rights in 2001. However, she then filed to reverse that decision in 2004. Since then, she has been subject to various partial custody agreements, including supervised visits and visiting her children once every 45 days.
According to Biography, Jackson named his mother, Katherine Jackson, as the legal guardian of his children, and she took over as the primary caregiver to the Jackson kids following his death. In 2009, Rowe and Katherine Jackson did establish a custody situation in which Rowe was able to spend time with her children, Newsweek reports, though the details of this arrangement are not specified.
In recent years, Paris Jackson has been photographed on occasion in public places with her mother, though it’s unclear how close they are.
4. Rowe Was Diagnosed With Breast Cancer in 2016; She Became Engaged to a Former Jackson Employee in 2014
Rowe became engaged to former Jackson employee and Neverland videographer Marc Schaffel in 2014. Then, in 2016, she announced that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer, saying to ET in July 2016, “I’m a fighter and always have been.”
According to a report of Rowe’s engagement by E! News, Rowe and Schaffel were close for several years prior to becoming engaged. Schaffel worked with Jackson on several projects throughout the musician’s career, the publication reported, and he was even credited as an executive producer on the song “What More Can I Give.”
It’s unclear if Schaffel and Rowe are still engaged, or if they’ve already married.
5. Rowe Is Extremely Private and Has Given Very Few Interviews
Rowe has, for the majority of her time in the public spotlight, maintained a very private life and given very few interviews. She has not made a statement about the most recent documentary on Jackson.
In a 2003 interview with RollingStone, Rowe did provide a few details about how she and Jackson became so close, so quickly. She said, “I go ‘Hi’. And he goes ‘Hi,’ and I said, ‘You know what? Nobody does what you do better, and nobody does what I do better. Let’s get this over with.’”