Britney Spears' lawyer argued on Monday (March 10) that Kevin Federline is charging her too much in legal fees.
An attorney for the embattled pop singer, who has been ordered to pay her ex-husband's legal fees in their custody battle, asked the court on Monday to reduce the nearly $500,000 bill.
Spears' latest attorney, Stacy Phillips, told the court that Federline's attorney Mark Vincent Kaplan was overcharging for his services, since he had changed his rates midbattle and had hired an associate, charging a rate of $600/hour for each of them. She said it wasn't necessary for both lawyers to attend the hearings, and she also criticized Kaplan for bundling his fees to make them "impossible to scrutinize."
When Phillips said Kaplan's fee of $450,000-$500,000 was too high, Commissioner Scott Gordon asked her to suggest an alternate figure. "That's putting me on the spot," Phillips responded. "I just want to know where you're coming from," Gordon said.
Ultimately, Phillips said a sum of $150,000-$175,000 would be more reasonable, though she believed that Federline should have to foot at least part of the bill himself, pointing out that he'd recently listed expenses of $20,000 for jewelry, and handed out a $2,000 tip for a $365 bar bill.
"This is not a normal case," Kaplan countered, citing the monitored visitation, conservatorship, and frequency of emergency hearings as factors that this particular custody battle was more complex than most, requiring more time on his part, as well as the hiring of associate Jim Simon. Citing a family-law code that supports a level playing field, Kaplan argued that since Spears was spending between $800,000-$900,000 on her own lawyers' expenses, Federline should be able to spend an equal amount, especially when he was trying to protect the children from what Kaplan described as "a dangerous situation."
Phillips also tried — unsuccessfully — to get more visitation rights for the pop star in a closed session. "There's no change in the existing order," Los Angeles Superior Court director of public information Allan Parachini told reporters. "It's a work in progress, but it's status quo on visitation." However, Kaplan predicted that this would change in the future and the opposing sides would become "more collaborative" in the future — and as reporters saw, Federline and his former father-in-law Jamie Spears, who represents the singer's interests as her conservator, were quite friendly, chatting for about 15 minutes before the hearing started. (Britney herself was not present).
Commissioner Gordon took the fee dispute under advisement, but did not rule on the matter during the hearing on Monday. "It's not clear when he'll be ruling, but if I were a betting man, I would say not today," Parachini said.
Spears' conservatorship has a scheduled hearing later Monday afternoon.