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The strange saga of Britney Spears’ child-custody battle with ex-husband Kevin Federline took another bizarre turn Monday when the pop star arrived late for a crucial hearing and then left in a swarm of paparazzi without going into court.
Federline, sporting a mohawk-style haircut, was present with his attorney when the hearing began, but Spears was nowhere to be seen until early afternoon — and then only for a few frenzied minutes.
An SUV brought her into a civic center garage but only her attorneys got out before the vehicle 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.
Her attendance at the hearing was not required but was considered by lawyers to be important if she is to regain the right to visit her two little sons.
“I’m hopeful,” one of her attorneys, Sorrell Trope, said earlier during a break when asked if his client would appear.
Superior Court Commissioner Scott Gordon scheduled Monday’s hearing at the same time he issued a Jan. 4 order suspending Spears’ monitored visits with son 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 in Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Reporters were only allowed into the courtroom for about a minute before Gordon said it would be a closed session. During that time he granted a motion from Spears’ attorneys to quash a subpoena, but there was no information given about what the subpoena involved or to whom it had been issued.
Family law court sessions routinely are held in secret, but the commissioner appeared to be gathering information on the incident to revisit his orders.
Court spokesman Allan Parachini said the morning session was taken up with testimony from a Los Angeles police officer who was one of the first responders to Spears’ home on the night of Jan. 3.
“He testified about his observations from when he responded to Ms. Spears’ house on that night,” Parachini said without providing any of the details of the testimony.
Parachini said up to nine witnesses would be called in the hearing and it was not likely to end Monday.
Police officers monitoring the paparazzi outside the courthouse warned them to stay on the sidewalk, and several were issued citations by bicycle-mounted officers for being in the street.
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