Britney Spears has been given one monitored overnight visit per week with her sons after losing the right to see her children unsupervised last week. The singer's lawyer requested an emergency hearing on Thursday (October 11) to see if the judge in Spears' custody case would extend her visitation time with her two sons to include overnight stays, now that she's passed her first week of random drug tests. Ex-husband Kevin Federline initially opposed the request outright, but the judge, Superior Court Commissioner Scott Gordon, asked the couple to work out a compromise.
They met for 45 minutes and didn't reach one, at which point Gordon asked them to try again to work out an arrangement. Following the hearing, Federline's lawyer Mark Vincent Kaplan said Commissioner Gordon was appreciative that the could have brokered an agreement.
In order to even get the once-weekly, monitored overnight visitation rights, Spears had to agree to meet other conditions, as Federline wanted to make sure the kids were "protected." The specifics of those conditions were not provided, nor was it disclosed which night she will get the overnight visit.
"He agreed, he didn't have to allow additional time provided there were assurances in place," Kaplan told reporters after the hearing.
In cases in which economics or other factors are an issue, family members are sometimes allowed to act as monitors. But counsel for Federline opposed the notion on the grounds that having a family member be the monitor would be a conflict of interest. The monitor, therefore, will not be changed.
Although not compelled to be at court, Spears arrived at noon after a phone call from her lawyer. The singer testified at the hearing — and was described by a court officer as having a "soft and respectful voice." The content of her testimony is not being made public. When Spears left the courthouse after the hearing, her white Mercedes was mobbed by photographers and cameramen as she was stopped at a red light.
Kaplan had opposed the hearing on the grounds that it was premature, as Spears' progress report is scheduled to be submitted to the court on October 22, with a hearing to follow on October 26 to reassess. "The fact that a party, one week after a full court hearing, attempts to change the orders of the court, in the absence of an emergency or without any new facts, suggests a continued lack of respect and understanding for what an order of the court actually means," Kaplan said in a statement.
"We hope she made progress," he reiterated after the hearing. "[But] again, we're a week into an order."
Spears' attorney, Anne Kiley, counter-argued that the singer's request was for the benefit of the children, because the current visitation schedule is disruptive to the boys' sleeping schedules and requires them to be woken up from their naps. Kiley called it "traumatizing" for Sean Preston and Jayden James to be without their mother, but Gordon countered that it could be just as traumatizing for the boys to be around a mother who has substance-abuse and emotional issues.
"I think the fairest way to put it is that it is a compromise between two parties," Superior Court spokesman Allan Parachini said. "[Commissioner Gordon] emphasized that this is a relationship between young parents. [He] wants to be sure that their commitment level to be good parents are what he thinks is necessary."
Just one week ago, Gordon had allowed Spears monitored visitation with her children several days a week, possibly as much as every other day (see "Britney Spears Allowed Supervised Visitation Of Children; Judge Warns Singer To Take Him Seriously"). Spears was also ordered to complete at least three individual counseling sessions and at least three joint parenting-counseling sessions with Federline by the next hearing.
"It's only been a week since the judge's last ruling, and Britney has yet to prove that she can follow those orders," celebrity-divorce attorney Raoul Felder said. "At this point, for her, it's a celebration of hope over reality. I don't think she has a chance."
Legal experts had predicted that the most Spears could hope for would be to slowly build back fuller visitation rights (see "Britney Spears, Legally Speaking: Top Lawyers Say She Can Get Kids Back, If She Follows Advice"). New York divorce lawyer Lois Liberman estimated that Spears would be allowed one- to two-hour supervised visits before she could build to longer stays, such as overnights or weekends, and it would take at least three months of clean drug-testing before the court would consider allowing Spears unsupervised visits with her children.
[This story was originally published at 3:08 pm ET on 10.11.2007]