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Published: 10/12/2007

Spears awarded 1 overnight stay a week with 2 sons in custody fight

ASSOCIATED PRESS

LOS ANGELES It wasn t one of Britney Spears more overwhelming performances, but her live appearance in court won her back a piece of motherhood.

Spears stood up for herself Thursday for the first time in her custody battle with ex-husband Kevin Federline and faced the court commissioner who took her kids away, citing drug and alcohol abuse by the pop princess.

By the time the closed-door session was over, Spears was awarded one overnight stay a week with her two little boys even though she won t be left alone with them someone appointed by the court will be monitoring her.

She spent about an hour before the commissioner, who earlier declined to rule on her emergency request to expand visitation.

She then drove from the courthouse in a white Mercedes-Benz and was swarmed by news media at a stop light, escaping only after sheriff s deputies ran from the courthouse to aid her.

Neither Spears nor her attorneys spoke to reporters after the hearing.

Superior Court spokesman Allan Parachini announced that the visitation order had been modified to permit the children, who were recently placed in Federline s custody, to have one overnight visit a week with their mother.

Spears was previously allowed monitored visits with the children but no overnight stays.

Parachini said he could not say who the overnight monitor would be.

Spears testified during the hearing, he said. Her voice was soft and respectful.

Federline agreed to the modification, his attorney, Mark Vincent Kaplan, said outside court.

He agreed didn t have to but he agreed that he would allow that additional time ... provided that there were additional assurances in place that made him feel the kids were protected, Kaplan said.

Spears attorney had asked the court to consider her mother, Lynne Spears, as the monitor.

Kaplan would not say when the first overnight would occur or who the monitor would be, but he said he opposes use of family members as court-appointed monitors because of a conflict of interest.

Spears, 25, and Federline, 29, were married in October 2004 and divorced in July. Both must appear in court Oct. 26 for a status hearing.

Spears came to court a few hours after a hearing in which only lawyers for both sides appeared before Superior Court Commissioner Scott Gordon in open court.

He declined to rule on Spears emergency motion but told the lawyers to meet outside court to discuss the issue, which led to the singer s appearance.

I m doing good, Spears said as she headed into court dressed in blue jeans, a long black sweater and aviator sunglasses. She sipped from a Coca-Cola can as she approached the courtroom. An attorney took it from her and placed it on a bench as she entered.

Spears played nervously with her jeans pocket as she stood to be sworn in.

The commissioner allowed Spears to keep her dark sunglasses on, telling her, I understand you have a medical condition. The condition was not disclosed.

Reporters were then asked to leave and the hearing continued behind closed doors.

During the earlier open hearing, Spears attorney, Anne Kiley, argued that overnight visits were critical for Spears to bond with her sons, 2-year-old Sean Preston and 1-year-old Jayden James.

I do think it is an emergency for them not to have overnights with their mother, which they ve always had, she told Gordon.

What possible concern can he (Federline) have if there are monitors present? she asked.

In the original Oct. 1 order requiring Spears to relinquish custody, Gordon granted her some visitation but said a monitor must be present and the visits could be cut short if the monitor decided Spears behavior endangered the children.

When he took the children away, Gordon said Spears had engaged in habitual, frequent and continuous use of controlled substances and alcohol. He ordered her to undergo random drug and alcohol testing twice a week.

He reiterated Thursday that he worried that the pop star s troubles could harm the children.

He also criticized Spears for not complying with previous court orders, repeatedly saying that the current custody order taking her children away resulted from her own choices.

Gordon told Kiley he had not received any of Spears drug test results directly from the lab, as he had ordered, although he had an attorney s declaration that she has passed them.

Federline s attorney, Kaplan, said it was frustrating that Spears lawyers would try to change the Oct. 1 custody order so soon after it was issued.

If she could remedy all of those problems ... in one week, that would be a miracle, he said.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com



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