Britney Spears appears to be making her life more stable, but that didn't win her any visitation rights to see her two young sons during a custody hearing held on Tuesday (February 19).
The singer, who swapped law firms, is now represented by divorce attorney Stacy Phillips, who has handled several high-profile clients, including Bobby Brown in his divorce with Whitney Houston, Erin Everly in her divorce with Axl Rose, and Charlie Shahnaian in his divorce with Tori Spelling. (Phillips' petition for substitution of counsel will be signed by the judge Tuesday afternoon, Los Angeles Superior Court director of public information Allan Parachini told MTV News.)
Before the firm Trope and Trope stepped down from the Spears case, however, attorney Anne Kiley had one last piece of business to attend to, which was a request for a gag order (originally made late last year) for the lawyers involved in the custody case. Kiley called the request an emotional and safety issue for the singer and her children, accusing Kevin Federline's counsel of leaking information to the press.
Federline's attorney Mark Vincent Kaplan opposed, calling a gag order a violation of free speech and saying that no clear and present danger existed to warrant such an order, which is more common in criminal cases. Kaplan also noted that even with a gag order, the paparazzi would continue to follow Spears, as they have done before the custody battle existed. Ultimately, Commissioner Scott Gordon denied the request, Parachini confirmed, as the judge decided conduct of paparazzi and public access to the courthouse would be treated as a law-enforcement issue and that the public has a right to know information about the case.
Yet despite this ruling, the main order of business — Spears' request to allow visitation rights in a therapeutic setting — was argued in a closed session. Kaplan went into the hearing willing to give some visitation rights to Spears, who hasn't seen her sons Sean Preston and Jayden James since January 3, when she was hospitalized following a custody standoff. Kaplan told "Extra" on Monday: "It has always been and it is now and will continue to be [Federline's] desire for the children to have their mother in their life under whatever conditions are reasonable, based on progress."
But after the closed morning session, "all custody orders, current and previous, remain in effect," Parachini said. "So in other words, no change."
The next hearing in the custody case is scheduled for March 10.