LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Attorneys for pop star Britney Spears and ex-husband Kevin Federline on Monday sparred over $1 million in legal fees in their child custody case as an official let stand a court order that has denied her custody and limited visits with their two sons.
Family Court Commissioner Scott Gordon kept in place an earlier ruling that custody of Jayden James, 1, and Sean Preston, 2, would remain with Federline. He also maintained a previous order that has denied Spears any visitation, even though in recent weeks Federline has agreed to limited visits between her and the boys.
“In terms of the visitation rights, they are status quo,” said court spokesman Allan Parachini after a periodic hearing to review the arrangements. “That progression may change but as of now, no changes ... have been made.”
The custody hearing began a daylong series of court sessions for the 26-year-old Spears who has been hospitalized twice for psychiatric evaluation since January.
Spears, 26, has seen her life spin out of control since her breakup with Federline. She has spent time in rehab and in recent months the Louisiana native has been seen around Los Angeles wearing pink wigs and talking in a British accent.
In court, Stacy Phillips, the attorney for her father and conservator Jamie Spears, argued that nearly $1 million in legal fees for both sides have been charged to the singer from October through January. She said those fees should be slashed to between $150,000 and $175,000.
Federline is represented by attorney Mark Vincent Kaplan, and Spears has been ordered to pay his bills. Kaplan, who earns $600 an hour, argued that this case was atypical because of Spears’ notoriety and the media attention surrounding her.
He said that in a normal case, attorneys might discuss which parent would pick up a child after school, but in this one, details like a court-appointed monitor and bodyguards had to be discussed. Moreover, intricate plans had to be formulated to deal with the paparazzi that cover Spears night and day.
“If the court views this is a simple custody case, I’m in trouble,” Kaplan said.
Phillips did not dispute that media attention brought abnormal issues and higher fees to the case, but she said Federline was paying personal expenses from money that should be used for lawyers’ fees.
As one example, Phillips said Federline’s ex-girlfriend, Shar Jackson, made personal charges on his business credit card. In a separate expense on the same business card, she said Federline gave a $2,000 tip on a $365 restaurant bill.
Following the morning hearing, Parachini said no decision had been made on reducing the attorneys fees.
In the afternoon, lawyers will discuss a conservatorship granted to Spears’ father, which gave him control over the singer’s personal and business affairs.
Writing by Bob Tourtellotte; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Cynthia Osterman