Jumat, 04 Januari 2008

Britney Spears child custody suspended after hospital drama (AFP)

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Britney Spears was barred from access to her two baby children here Friday, a day after the troubled singer was rushed to hospital on a stretcher amid fears for her health.

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge ordered Spears children to be placed in the sole care of the singers ex-husband Kevin Federline, suspending the pop stars visitation rights until "further order of the court."

A hearing has been set for January 14 which will determine how the bitter custody battle is to proceed.

The court ruling came after a dramatic 24 hours for Spears, the fallen pop princess who has rarely been out of the tabloid headlines over the past year following a string of bizarre incidents.

On Thursday she was wheeled out of her Los Angeles mansion on a stretcher and taken to the Cedars Sinai hospital for evaluation following a three-hour custody standoff.

Spears had reportedly refused to release her two children, Sean Preston, two, and Jayden James, one to Federlines bodyguard.

Video footage of the aftermath of the incident showed Spears alternately smiling and looking distraught as she was lifted into an ambulance.

Los Angeles Police Department spokesman Jason Lee said Spears was being detained and evaluated in hospital because officers had found her under the influence of an unknown substance.

People magazine reported on its website Friday that Spears had been placed under a 72-hour lock down for evaluation at Cedars Sinai known as a "5150".

Spears, one of the most successful pop stars of her generation, has been embroiled in a toxic custody battle with Federline ever since the couple separated in late 2006.

A judge limited the pop stars access to her children in October after she failed to submit to random drug testing as demanded at an earlier hearing where the court ruled Spears was a "habitual and continuous" drug user."

Earlier Thursday, Spears began a court-ordered deposition in the custody case after missing several appointments to do so, but appeared for questioning by Federlines lawyer so late that it lasted only 13 minutes, US magazine reported.

The day before, her lawyers had requested to leave her case, citing "a breakdown in communications" with Spears that made "further representation of her interests impossible."

The court-room drama rumbled throughout a difficult year for Spears that saw her in the news for all the wrong reasons.

She was repeatedly photographed in nightspots wearing no underwear and was also captured bizarrely shaving her head in a hair salon and attacking a photographers car with an umbrella.

Those episodes were followed by a stint in a rehabilitation treatment center.

In September Spears attempted to resurrect her career but suffered a critical savaging after a live performance at the Video Music Awards.

Nevertheless the release of her first album in four years in October, "Blackout," offered Spears some encouragement with critics broadly hailing the work as a success.

But Spears family was back in the headlines again last month when it emerged that the singers 16-year-old sister, the star of a popular US television childrens show, was pregnant.

Spears shot to superstardom in late 1998, with her smash-hit debut album "Baby One More Time" which she followed with another chart-topping success the following year, "Oops! ... I Did It Again."

According to Time magazine, Spears has sold over 76 million records worldwide, and her 31 million albums sold in the United States make her the eighth best-selling female artist in US music history.

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