Britney Spears leaves LA courthouse

January 23, 2008 3:06:40 PM PST
Britney Spears bolted from the courthouse Wednesday before setting foot in her child-custody hearing, which went on without her - and ended with a court commissioner upholding an order suspending her visitation rights.

The pop star came to the courthouse to seek visits with two little boys, entered the building and went through security screening. But she suddenly stated that she wanted to leave and was driven away, Superior Court spokesman Allan Parachini said.

Upstairs, Commissioner Scott Gordon went ahead with a closed hearing, and "notice was taken of Miss Spears' absence," Parachini said. Spears' lawyer argued that she be allowed to have visits, and ex-husband Kevin Federline - who showed up for the hearing - was asked a few questions that required yes or no answers, Parachini said.

In the end, Gordon made no change to the order suspending her visitation rights. The hearing was not scheduled and Spears was not ordered to be there, Parachini said.

Spears, 26, and Federline, 29, are battling over sons Sean Preston, 2, and Jayden James, 1. It was the second time this month that Spears pulled a disappearing act at the courthouse in her custody battle with her ex-husband.

Earlier this month, Gordon suspended Spears' visitation rights and gave full custody to Federline, then kept that order in effect during an emergency hearing last week. That time, Spears was driven into the civic center garage but decided to leave.

The hearings followed a bizarre early January standoff at Spears' home when she refused to return the boys after a visit and was briefly hospitalized.

On Wednesday, Gordon called the Spears case at about 9:15 a.m., allowing Spears' attorney, Anne Kiley, to go out and try to find her client. Kiley returned about 20 minutes later and Gordon called the matter again.

"Is your client present?" he asked Kiley.

"No, she's not," the lawyer replied.

"Is she going to be present?" the commissioner asked.

"I don't know," Kiley said.

The commissioner then said there were motions filed by both sides but he didn't indicate what they were. Federline was sworn in as a witness and Kaplan asked that the courtroom be cleared of spectators and the press.

Spears evaded swarms of paparazzi by arriving and leaving through a basement parking garage under the courthouse.

She wore bright lipstick, sunglasses, gold platform shoes and a very short black cocktail dress with a ruffled hem. Federline, clad in a tan suit and open-necked shirt and sporting a mohawk haircut, arrived a half hour before Spears.

The next hearing is set for Feb. 4, at which time Spears' attorneys will ask permission to withdraw from the case. A hearing on custody is set for Feb. 19.

A custody trial is set for April. Federline's attorney, Mark Vincent Kaplan, noted outside court that the commissioner has ordered a custody evaluator to report back to him before the trial.