The last two years have been tough ones for Britney Spears, who, after losing custody of her two children three months ago to ex-husband Kevin Federline, was transported to a Los Angeles-area hospital Thursday night , following a domestic dispute at her home.
According to reports, the singer refused to turn over her sons to Federline, and, according to authorities who responded to calls from her Studio City, California, home, seemed to be under the influence of an unidentified substance.
It was a perilous new low for Spears, and the latest in a long string of highly publicized incidents that seem to have plagued the pop star since early 2004, when she first met Federline.
From day one, Spears has faced scorn and scrutiny for her choice of a husband — and although their marriage initially appeared to be a happy one, her increasingly erratic behavior, in the wake of her divorce from Federline and the subsequent ugly custody battle, has become a far more prominent issue.
Here’s a look at major events in Spears’ life and marriage since early 2004.
» April: Britney Spears and Kevin Federline meet, frolic and run away to Europe together. Kevin tells a then-pregnant Shar Jackson, the mother of his first two children, that he’s shooting a commercial overseas. Well, he was only half-lying — he was shooting footage for their show, “Chaotic.” Shar tells People magazine, “It wasn’t like just breaking up a relationship. It was like breaking up a family.”
» June: Britney pops the question, busts her knee and cancels her tour. The couple announce their engagement (see “It’s True: Britney’s Engaged” ).
» July 20: Shar Jackson gives birth to Kaleb, her second child with Kevin.
» September 18: Britney and Kevin have a surprise marriage ceremony (see “Britney Spears Marries Kevin Federline” ).
» April 12: Britney announces she’s pregnant on her Web site (see “It’s Official: Britney’s Pregnant” ).
» June: A pregnant Britney appears in a video for her single “Someday (I Will Understand).”
» September 14: Sean Preston — Britney and Kevin’s first child together, his third — is born (see “Britney Spears Gives Birth To A Baby Boy” ).
» February 6: Britney is photographed driving with Sean Preston on her lap, not in a car seat. Britney is questioned by the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services. She blames the paparazzi.
» April 1: Sean Preston falls out of his high chair at home. Britney is questioned again by the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services. She blames the nanny.
» May 9: Britney appears on “Late Show With David Letterman” to announce she’s pregnant once again.
» May 18: Britney nearly drops Sean Preston — but not her coffee — in New York. She blames the cobblestones.
» June 16: Britney cries and smacks her gum while defending her parenting techniques to Matt Lauer on “Dateline.” About driving with Sean Preston in her lap? “I did it with my dad. I’d sit on his lap and I drive. We’re country.”
» August 31: Britney and Kevin spoof their image as bad parents when they appear together via satellite on the Video Music Awards.
» September 12: Britney and Kevin’s second child together is born, Jayden James.
» November 6: Britney makes her first official appearance after giving birth, as a surprise guest on “Late Show With David Letterman.”
» November 7: The next day, she files for divorce (see “Britney Spears Files For Divorce — It’s Official” ), asking for sole custody (allowing visitation rights). Kevin finds out via text message. She celebrates by going ice-skating at New York’s Rockefeller Center.
» November 8: Kevin fights back, filing for sole custody (allowing visitation rights; see “Kevin Responds To Britney’s Divorce Filing: He’s Going To Fight” ).
» Mid-November: Spears’ response is apparently to party hard — with Paris and without panties. Cameras catch everything — even her Caesarian scar.
» December 7: Britney explains her behavior on her Web site, saying she got carried away. “Thank God for Victoria’s Secret!” she writes (see “Britney Speaks: ‘Thank God For Victoria’s Secret’s New Underwear!’ “ ).
» January 5: The panty-less partying doesn’t stop — nor do Spears’ apologies. “Trust me, I get it,” she writes. “I know I’ve been far from perfect” (see “Britney Tells Fans ‘I Get It … I Know I’ve Been Far From Perfect’ “ ). Later that month, the couple agree to a temporary joint-custody arrangement which included a three-days-a-week visitation schedule for Federline.
» February 14: Britney checks into Crossroads Centre, a rehab facility on the Caribbean island of Antigua, only to check out a day later.
» February 16: Britney shaves her head in Sherman Oaks, California (see “Britney Spears Shaves Head, Gets Tattoo” ).
» February 20: Britney checks into Promises Malibu Alcohol and Drug Rehab Treatment Facility in Malibu, California, only to check out less than 24 hours later (see “Britney Spears Leaves Rehab; Federline Requests Emergency Hearing” ).
» February 22: Britney checks back into Promises, as Kevin asks the court for an emergency hearing to help sort out custody issues (see “Britney Back In Rehab Yet Again” ).
» March 20: Britney completes her program at Promises, as Kevin celebrates his 29th birthday (see “Britney Spears Leaves Rehab” ).
» March 29: Britney and Kevin reach a settlement “on all issues of their marriage and child custody,” in which the couple are to split custody 50/50 (see “Britney Spears, Kevin Federline Reach Divorce Settlement” ).
» April 16: Britney fires her manager Larry Rudolph after mocking him in a paparazzi video. “Like, my management totally knew what they were doing when they sent me to rehab,” she tells X-17’s camera guy in a mock Valley Girl voice. Or was it her real voice?
» May 17: Britney fires bodyguard Tony Barretto for failing to pick up a hat. He later files a deposition in her child-custody case claiming to be witness to “nudity, drug use and safety issues” involving her kids.
» May 29: Britney posts her now-infamous “I was so lost” letter (see “Britney Spears Admits ‘I Was So Lost’ In Online Letter” ). “Till this day I don’t think it was alcohol or depression,” she writes of her behavior prior to rehab. “I was like a bad kid running around with ADD. I had a manager from a long time ago try to come in and direct me and my life after I got my divorce … I think it is actually normal for a young girl to go out after a huge divorce.”
» June: Britney’s personal publicist resigns.
» July 26: Britney takes the kids out of state (a no-no when it comes to the custody agreement), only to have a tussle with a paparazzo outside the Wynn hotel and casino in Las Vegas. Her bodyguard Cesar Julio Camera is later charged with battery in connection with the incident. Strangely enough, the only post on the singer’s Web site for the month — and ever since — has been an apology to another paparazzo, one she attacked with an umbrella. The singer blamed her actions on a movie role. “I was preparing a character for a possible movie role where the husband doesn’t play his part so they swap places,” she writes.
» July 30: The divorce is finally made official …
» August 2: … but nothing is settled, as Federline’s team starts to serve a series of subpoenas to Spears’ friends and employees, starting with her assistant Alli Sims.
» August 6: Britney has a minor fender-bender when she hits a parked car. Well, minor except for the fact that she doesn’t have a driver’s license in the state of California, and she leaves the scene — while being photographed and videotaped.
» September 9: Britney performs on the VMAs, while Kevin throws a birthday party for the kids.
» September 17: A Los Angeles judge orders Britney to do random drug testing, counseling and parenting classes as he evaluates the couple’s opposing custody wishes (see “Britney Spears Must Undergo Regular Drug Testing, Parenting Classes In Custody Case” ). Kevin is also ordered to take parenting lessons. Britney swaps lawyers.
» September 18: Britney parts company with her management and swaps lawyers once again.
» September 21: Britney is charged with two misdemeanor counts of hit and run causing property damage and driving without a valid license (see “Britney Spears Charged With Two Driving-Related Misdemeanors” ). She continues to drive anyway, and is photographed and videotaped driving with the kids in the car.
» October 1: A Los Angeles judge orders Britney to turn over the children to Federline by October 3, at least temporarily.
» October 3: In an attempt to regain custody of her children, Britney visits the California Department of Motor Vehicles and applies for a temporary driver’s license; One is granted, allaying, if only temporarily, concerns over her driving habits (see “Britney Spears Now Has A Valid Driver’s License,” ).
» October 4: A Los Angeles judge rules Federline will retain custody of the children, but does award Britney regular, supervised visits with them — along with a warning (see “Britney Spears Allowed Supervised Visitation Of Children; Judge Warns Singer To Take Him Seriously,” ).
On the same day, Brit’s former bodyguard, Tony Barretto, files child-abuse claims against the singer under the California Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act, and meets with authorities at the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services for two hours. The agency launches an investigation into the complaint.
» October 11: Spears is granted one monitored overnight visit per week with her sons after passing her first week of random, court-ordered drug testing (see “Britney Spears Granted One Overnight Visit Per Week With Kids,” ).
» October 16: Spears turns herself in to Los Angeles police in connection with a pair of minor traffic offenses. She spends 45 minutes being fingerprinted and photographed at a police station in the Los Angeles suburb of Van Nuys (see “Britney Spears Booked On Traffic Charges” ).
» October 18: Spears again loses her right to see the children, following an emergency hearing. Federline’s lawyers request the suspension of visitation, claiming she had failed to follow court directives (see “Britney Spears’ Visitation Rights Are Suspended” ).
» October 19: In an incident caught on video, Spears runs over the foot of a paparazzo with her car as she attempts to leave a doctor’s office in Beverly Hills, California. The man’s foot is allegedly broken in the incident (see “Britney Spears Apparently Drives Over Paparazzo’s Foot” ).
On the same day, Spears settles her civil case with the owner of the car she hit in a parking lot in August.
» October 21: Spears regains visitation rights with her children. She starts attending co-parenting therapy sessions with Federline (see “Britney Spears Regains Visitation Rights Of Her Children” ).
» October 23: Spears reportedly hits another paparazzo with her car. Her parenting coach submits a report to Los Angeles Superior Court, claiming Spears had ignored the coach’s presence and that the coach had been unable to teach the singer anything. The report also suggests Spears often ignores her children and often wasn’t around them while the coach was present.
» October 25: Spears’ lawyer enters a not-guilty plea on her behalf during a hearing concerning her August 6 car crash, which resulted in two driving-related misdemeanor charges. A judge rules she will not face a hit-and-run charge in the crash, as she had already compensated the victim.
» October 30: A judge rules Spears will not regain custody of her children. The singer is also lambasted by Catholic leaders over the suggestive, religious-themed photos in the booklet for her new album, Blackout (see “Britney Spears Won’t Regain Custody Of Kids Yet, Judge Rules ), and “Britney Spears Slammed By Catholic League For Blackout’s Religious-Themed Photos” ).
» November 2: The Los Angeles Police Department says it is investigating Spears for allegedly running over an officer’s feet. The officer was trying to help the singer navigate her car through the paparazzi at her custody hearing in Los Angeles (see “Britney Spears Allegedly Runs Over Cop’s Feet” ).
» November 6: Spears hands over $120,000 to Federline to pay for legal bills he had amassed as a result of the couple’s child-custody battle.
» November 7: Spears’ new album, Blackout, debuts at #2 on the Billboard albums sales chart, despite reports she’d open at #1. That honor instead went to the Eagles’ Long Road Out of Eden (see “Britney Spears’ Blackout Denied #1 Debut On Billboard Chart After Last-Minute Rule Change” ). An emergency custody hearing is called, during which Federline’s attorney charges the singer has not followed drug-testing procedures.
» November 8: Another hearing is convened and Spears is accused of not following the court’s orders regarding her random drug testing. Of the 14 tests the singer had been required to take, she had only responded to calls for six of them (see “Britney Spears, Kevin Federline Told To Reach Compromise On Drug Testing” ).
» November 9: Britney allegedly runs a red light and then makes an illegal turn against oncoming traffic, with her two sons in the back seat of her car. The incident is captured on videotape.
» November 16: Authorities decide that Britney should not be allowed to drive with her children in the car for the time being (see “Britney Spears Isn’t Allowed To Drive With Her Children, Judge Rules: Report” ).
» November 20: Spears reportedly hires a private investigator to observe Federline.
» November 26: The Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services requests access to all the files in the couple’s custody case. Spears’ attorney challenges the request. A holiday custody schedule is established (see “Britney Spears’ Lawyers Set Custody Holiday Schedule; Child Welfare Department Asks For All Files In Case” ).
» December 5: Court documents reveal child-welfare investigators are looking into “multiple child-abuse and neglect” allegations against Spears, and a spokesperson for DCFS says concerns exist about the safety and welfare of the two children if they are left with their mother (see “Britney Spears Being Investigated By Child-Welfare Department: Report” ).
» December 12: Britney’s sister, Jamie Lynn Spears, announces that she’s pregnant — at age 16. Britney fails to show for a deposition, apparently because she was suffering from an undisclosed illness that prevented her from attending. Federline’s lawyer seeks a court sanction against her for failing to show up (see “Jamie Lynn Spears, Britney’s Sister, Is Pregnant” and “Britney Spears Misses Court-Ordered Deposition” ).
» December 18: Federline’s attorney requests that the court order Spears to show up for a fifth scheduled deposition. The order is granted (see
“Britney Spears Ordered To Show Up For January Deposition” ). Federline continues to retain primary custody of the children.
» January 2: Spears’ lawyers ask to withdraw themselves as her counsel in the custody battle. The lawyers cite “a breakdown in communications” for their decision. Once again, the singer fails to appear for a scheduled deposition (see “Britney Spears’ Legal Team Asks To Be Withdrawn; Singer Also Reportedly Misses Deposition Again” ).
» January 3: Britney sits down for her long-awaited deposition, but cuts the session short after just 15 minutes. Separately, a January 25 trial date is set in her misdemeanor driving case (see “Britney Spears Shows Up For 14-Minute Deposition; Trial Date Set For Driving Charge,” ). Later the same evening, Spears is rushed to the hospital after a showdown with Federline at her home. She refuses to turn over the children to him, and police arrive to find her under the influence of an unknown substance (see “Britney Spears Hospitalized After Refusing To Turn Over Kids” ).
» January 4: Federline’s lawyer calls an emergency custody hearing (see “Britney Spears Emergency Custody Hearing Called By Kevin Federline’s Lawyer” ), where the judge gives temporary sole custody of Sean Preston and Jayden James to Federline (see “Britney Spears Ruling: Kevin Federline Will Temporarily Receive Sole Custody” ). The next custody hearing is set for January 14.
» January 5 Despite reports stating she’d be held for 72 hours, Spears is unexpectedly released from the hospital early and leaves accompanied by psychologist/television personality “Dr. Phil” McGraw, who says he’s “very concerned.” Later reports say that Spears responded unenthusiastically to the visit; a planned episode of McGraw’s show focusing on Spears was canceled on January 7 .
For more on Britney’s past four years, check out:
[This story originally published at 2:51 p.m. ET on 01.04.2008]