LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Lawyers around troubled singer Britney Spears battled in court on Monday over her parenting issues and $1 million in legal bills with one judge ruling the pop star should receive $1,500 a week to spend.
That sum must seem like a small amount for the former child star, who in 2002 was named the world’s No. 1 celebrity by Forbes magazine after earning $39.2 million in one year.
But since 2006, Spears’ life has spiraled downward. She divorced husband Kevin Federline, spent time in rehab, lost custody of her and Federline’s sons, and this year was hospitalized twice for psychiatric evaluation.
In January, her father Jamie Spears won control of her personal and business affairs via a conservatorship, and on Monday Court Commissioner Reva Goetz said he could give Britney a debit or credit card with the $1,500 per week to spend.
Goetz also authorized a $135,000 bank account, controlled by Jamie Spears and a second co-conservator, to pay bills and said conservators could hire an entertainment attorney.
Spears, 26, would appear to need some legal advice because she will appear as a guest star on a new episode of CBS comedy “How I Met Your Mother,” a network spokeswoman said.
A second source close to the show said the episode would tape this week and likely air on March 24, adding that Spears took part in a “table read” rehearsal on Monday.
As a result, Spears was not in court again after missing many hearings throughout 2007 and this year. Her court-appointed attorney Samuel Ingham said he did not know why she was not coming.
“I have made arrangements and offered transportation for her to make an appearance in court, but she has chosen not to come,” Ingham told Goetz.
Later, a court official told reporters outside the courtroom that Ingham said to the judge, “She does not object to the proceedings taking place, however she does object to the elements of the reliefs that are being requested.”
In a morning hearing over parenting issues, a second court commissioner maintained an October order that gave Federline custody of their sons, Jayden James, 1, and Sean Preston, 2.
In January after Spears’ initial hospitalization, Court Commissioner Scott Gordon denied her visits to the boys, but in recent weeks Federline has agreed to limited visitation.
“In terms of the visitation rights, they are status quo,” said court spokesman Allan Parachini. “That progression may change but as of now, no changes ... have been made.”
Stacy Phillips, the attorney for Jamie Spears, said nearly $1 million in legal fees for both sides have been charged to the singer from October through January, and she argued those fees should be slashed to between $150,000 and $175,000.
Federline’s attorney Mark Vincent Kaplan, who is just one of the attorneys billing Spears, argued that the high fees were legitimate because this case was atypical of most child custody battles because of Spears’ notoriety.
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. Intricate plans also had to be formulated to deal with the paparazzi that cover Spears night and day.
Phillips did not dispute higher fees from media attention, but said Federline was paying personal expenses from money that should be used for lawyers’ fees. For example, Federline gave a $2,000 tip on a $365 restaurant bill, she said.
Parachini said no decision was made on attorneys fees.
Writing by Bob Tourtellotte; editing by Dan Whitcomb and Mohammad Zargham