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Spears Leaves Before Custody Hearing

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LINDA DEUTSCH | January 14, 2008 10:56 PM EST | AP

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LOS ANGELES — Britney Spears went to a courthouse Monday but abruptly left amid a swarm of paparazzi without attending a hearing in her child-custody battle with her ex-husband, missing a chance to try to persuade a commissioner to restore her visitation rights to her two little boys.

Instead, the Superior Court commissioner heard a day of closed-door testimony from Kevin Federline and witnesses to a bizarre situation this month in which police took the pop singer to a hospital after a standoff in her home when she refused to return the boys to Federline's bodyguard after a visit.

Commissioner Scott Gordon then ruled that a Jan. 4 emergency order suspending her visitation rights and giving custody to Federline would remain in effect. He scheduled another hearing for Feb. 19.

"The word victory is not something Mr. Federline or his counsel would ascribe to this. There is no joy. This is a grave situation for all," Federline's attorney, Mark Vincent Kaplan, said outside the courthouse.

Although Federline thought the ruling was correct, Kaplan said, "his goal, his hope for the future is at some point he will be able to parent the children with the participation of their mother."

Kaplan would not answer questions.

Court spokesman Allan Parachini said those who testified were two Los Angeles police officers; Paula Strong, the court-appointed monitor who was present for the visit at Spears' home; Lisa Hacker, a parenting coach who has been working with Spears and Federline; and Lonnie Jones, the bodyguard.

Parachini did not reveal what the witnesses said during their testimony.

Gordon's order noted that during an officer's testimony there were two exhibits, one described as a photocopy of a police report and the other as a "photocopy of Application for 72-hour Detention for Evaluation and Treatment." All exhibits were ordered sealed.

Neither Spears nor Federline were required to attend, but Federline arrived early, sporting a mohawk-style haircut and dressed in a suit. Spears didn't arrive until early afternoon.

A sport-utility vehicle took her into a civic center garage, but only her attorneys got out before it left. It later stopped outside the courthouse, where Spears got out of a passenger seat and took over the driver's seat. It was not clear in the crush of photographers whether she or a companion was at the wheel when it left.

Gordon scheduled Monday's hearing at the same time he issued a Jan. 4 order suspending Spears' monitored visits with sons Jayden James, 1, and Sean Preston, 2, and giving full legal and physical custody to Federline, who previously had temporary custody.

Gordon issued that order the day after police were called to Spears' home when she refused to return the children to Federline after a monitored visit and officers had paramedics haul the pop star off to a hospital for undisclosed reasons. She was released after a day and a half at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Police officers monitoring the paparazzi outside the courthouse warned them to stay on the sidewalk, and several were issued citations for being in the street.

Spears married Federline in 2004 and filed for divorce in 2006. Throughout 2007, her behavior was erratic _ and highly public, as a train of photographers trailed her everywhere.

A court ordered her to undergo random drug and alcohol testing, and to temporarily give the boys to Federline. Spears' attorneys asked the court this month to be relieved as her counsel because of a "breakdown" in communication. That motion is scheduled to be heard on Feb. 4.

___

Raquel Maria Dillon contributed to this report.