LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Michael Jackson's mother gained permanent custody of her late son's children during a hearing Monday that included a surprise objection from the pop icon's former dermatologist.
Still to come at Monday's hearing was a ruling on who controlled Jackson's estate, a major issue since Jackson is said to have left behind several unfinished projects and "a trove of unreleased music."
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff made a series of key rulings during the morning portion of the Monday hearing. In addition to approving Katherine Jackson's guardianship petition, he also granted monthly stipends to the 79-year-old and the three young grandchildren she is now charged with raising.
The ruling came after a few tense moments in which an attorney for Beverly Hills Dr. Arnold Klein, Michael Jackson's longtime dermatologist, raised nonspecific objections to the custody arrangements. The attorney, Mark Vincent Kaplan, said they were based on the doctor's long-term relationship with the singer and his children.
"Legally, he is not a presumed parent," Kaplan said. He said Klein had concerns about the children's education and other day-to-day parenting issues.
Beckloff ultimately determined Klein didn't have legal standing to object to the care of Jackson's children, but said he could raise objections later. Klein has repeatedly denied tabloid reports that he is the biological father of Jackson's children, saying last month on "Larry King Live" that "to the best of my knowledge" he is not.
Katherine Jackson's approval as permanent guardian is in accordance with her son's wishes. Michael named her in a 2002 will as the person he wanted to raise his children. Beckloff noted that the singer's two oldest children, 12-year-old Prince Michael and 11-year-old Paris Michael, filed declarations stating their wishes for who would raise them. He did not indicate what they said.
The handlers of Michael Jackson's probate and guardianship cases had much to do at today's hearing, meant to tackle a number of estate and family issues.
At least one major hurdle was cleared last week with a custody agreement between Katherine Jackson, and Deborah Rowe, the biological mother of the singer's two oldest children.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff has deferred hearing arguments or making rulings on several motions brought by attorneys for Katherine Jackson and the two men who have temporary control of the pop icon's financial matters: attorney John Branca and music executive John McClain.
He was expected to do so later Monday, after a morning recess.
Jackson's estate has been described in court documents as having an estimated value of more than $500 million, but its actual current worth is about $100 million, and could increase in value to $200 million or more with some financial restructuring, according to a person briefed on the matter. The person was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.
Branca and McClain could leave Monday's hearing with a firmer rein on the estate.
The to-do list for Monday's hearing has grown in recent weeks, with Beckloff deferring decisions on several issues, most of which have to do with Jackson's finances.
Among the issues Beckloff is slated to consider:
_ An allowance for Katherine Jackson and her grandchildren. The special administrators of Jackson's estate have asked for monthly stipends for the group, noting that Jackson supported all of them before his death on June 25. Beckloff delayed considering the payments until Monday, but attorneys on both sides agree they are necessary.
_ Decide when Katherine Jackson will become the permanent guardian of her grandchildren, 12-year-old Prince Michael, 10-year-old Paris Michael and 7-year-old Prince Michael II, known as Blanket. No one else has petitioned for custody of the children, and Jackson, now 79, was her son's first choice named in his 2002 will.
_ Whether Katherine Jackson can challenge the men currently administering the son's estate, without actually contesting her son's will. Her attorneys have asked Beckloff to decide whether if they petition to remove Branca and McClain as administrators, they will trigger a no-contest clause in Jackson's trust. Without the protection of Beckloff's ruling, Mrs. Jackson could lose her 40 percent share of Jackson's estate if she mounts a challenge to Branca and McClain's authority.
_ Mrs. Jackson's attorneys have expressed concerns about possible conflicts of interests that Branca and McClain may have, and have been seeking greater access to Jackson's records in the form of subpoenas and depositions. They sought that authority last week ahead of Monday's hearing, but were told they would have to wait until that day for a ruling.
_ Decide whether Branca and McClain continue administering Jackson's estate. Court filings indicate the pair have already received $5.5 million from a former Jackson financial adviser, later identified as Tohme Tohme. They have also taken possession of many of the King of Pop's properties, and have said in court filings that they hope to finish several multimillion deals soon.
_ Beckloff could be presented with some of those deals. The judge has already approved one that will bring Jackson's 1988 autobiography, ``Moonwalk'' back to store shelves. The singer left behind several unfinished projects and a trove of unreleased music.