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Britney Spears temporarily loses custody of sons to Federline

| Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2007

LOS ANGELES -- Britney Spears' continuing downward spiral took a devastating turn today when she was ordered to relinquish custody of her children by a judge who had cited her drug-and-alcohol-fueled lifestyle.

Superior Court Judge Scott M. Gordon ruled that that ex-husband Kevin Federline will take Sean Preston, 2, and Jayden James, 1, beginning Wednesday "until further order of the court."

The order stemmed from an unspecified oral motion made by Federline's lawyers and was handled in a closed-door hearing. The judge's order did not state the reason for the change in custody and he ordered all transcripts of the proceedings sealed.

Phone messages left for representatives of Spears and Federline were not immediately returned Monday.

Last month, Gordon said Spears engaged in "habitual, frequent and continuous use of controlled substances and alcohol" and ordered her to undergo random drug and alcohol testing twice a week as part of her ongoing custody dispute with Federline.

Spears also was previously ordered to meet weekly with a "parenting coach" who was to observe and report back to the court about her parenting skills. Both Spears and Federline must complete the court's "Parenting Without Conflict" class.

Spears, 25, and Federline, 29, were married in October 2004. She filed for divorce last November and it became official in July. The two have joint custody of their sons, but Federline is seeking a greater share of custody.

Since Spears became single, her troubles have played out in the tabloids. First she was photographed at various Hollywood hotspots partying hard with Paris Hilton -- appearing drunk and out-of-control. Some photos captured the pop star without panties. Then Spears shaved her head as paparazzi captured the moment, beat a car with an umbrella and ended up spending a month in rehab.

An MTV Video Music Awards performance last month meant to herald her comeback was universally panned, with Spears appearing spaced-out and lethargic -- and, in some eyes, less than buff. The following week, Spears' management firm dropped her and her divorce lawyer resigned.

She then was charged with misdemeanor counts of hit-and-run and driving without a valid license for allegedly crashing into a parked car in August.

The driving offenses likely compelled the judge to issue Monday's orders, said New York divorce lawyer Raoul Felder.

"She was driving without a license with a child in the car," he said. "You can put aside the in and out of rehab, the shaving her head. But this• When a judge went out on a limb for her• There's no going back."

Though Spears must relinquish physical custody of the children until further ruling from the court, she and Federline still share legal custody.

Los Angeles divorce lawyer Connolly Oyler said he's surprised the children weren't taken from Spears sooner. Judges typically remove youngsters from households where parents are ordered to undergo drug testing, he said.

"There may have been another incident and the judge had had enough," Oyler said.

But, he added, all is not lost for Spears.

"If she picks a good counselor and gets a different set of friends, there's a good chance she can turn things around," he said, noting "she's only 25."

The couple is due back in court Oct. 3. Spears' new album is set to be released Nov. 13. Additional Information:

Life and times of Britney Spears

The life and times of Britney Spears:

--1981: Born in Kentwood, La., on Dec. 2.

--1991: Begins studying at New York's Professional Performing Arts School and the Dance Center, leading to roles in commercials and the off-Broadway comedy 'Ruthless.'

--1992: Chosen for 'The All New Mickey Mouse Club.'

--1994: 'The All New Mickey Mouse Club' is canceled.

--1996: Lands development deal with Jive Records.

--1998: Releases first single, the hit '... Baby One More Time.'

--1999: Debut album and single hit No. 1. At age 17 appears on Rolling Stone's cover in a bra and hot pants.

--2000: Releases second album, 'Oops! ... I Did It Again.' Covers the Rolling Stones' 'Satisfaction' at the MTV Video Music Awards, stripping down to a nude-colored glimmering bikini top and matching pants.

--2001: Performs 'I'm A Slave 4 U' with a python around her neck at MTV Awards.

--2002: Stars in the film 'Crossroads.' Announces she's 'not in an intense relationship with anyone' after dating fellow Mousketeer alum Justin Timberlake for three years. Tops Forbes magazine's most powerful celebrities list.

--2003: Gets open-mouth kiss from Madonna at MTV Awards. Album 'In the Zone' released at top of charts.

--2004: Weds childhood friend Jason Allen Alexander in Las Vegas; annulment follows in 55 hours. Begins dating dancer Kevin Federline, who has a child and another on the way by actress Shar Jackson; marries Federline on Sept. 18.

--2005: Stars with Federline in the UPN reality show 'Britney and Kevin: Chaotic,' featuring home videos. Gives birth to Sean Preston Federline on Sept. 14.

--2006: Photographed driving with Sean Preston on her lap; authorities visit home to investigate. Sean Preston falls from high chair; authorities return. Pregnant, she tells NBC's 'Dateline' her marriage is 'awesome,' blames media scrutiny for making her an 'emotional wreck.' Appears nude on cover of Harper's Bazaar. Gives birth to Jayden James. Files for divorce.

--2007: Rings in the New Year at a Las Vegas nightclub. Shaves head. Goes in and out of rehab. Federline seeks sole custody of their boys. Performs at a San Diego club. Divorce is finalized. Ordered by a court to undergo random drug and alcohol testing. Bombs at MTV Awards. Charged with misdemeanor hit-and-run and driving without a valid license because of August parking lot crash. Ordered to give kids to Federline.

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