Britney Spears is reportedly about to enter (re-enter, rather) the ninth circle of hell otherwise known as child custody court, and we wish all involved godspeed — and as few emotional/financial/other lasting traumas as possible.
This past September, the singer and her ex-husband Kevin Federline formally revised their custodial agreement in court to give Federline 70% custody of the former couple’s two sons (Sean Preston, 14, and Jaden James, 13), while Spears prioritized her mental health. Prior to September, Spears and Federline had shared a 50-50 custodial split. And this week, a source reported to US Weekly that the arrangement is about to change again, as Spears plans to go to court in 2020 to fight for more than her current 30% time with her sons.
We wish her the best of luck — and a shit-ton of strength. As anyone who’s been through it can attest, child custody court is not for the faint of heart. It can feel beyond strange, counterintuitive, and even inhumane to be sitting in a room filled with lawyers who are trying to put a price point on the lives of your children; I know because I’ve been there. But that means I can also easily imagine how hard it must be for Spears to spend only 30% of her kids’ lives with them.
Honestly, even when I had 60% physical custody of my kid — a majority, mind you — I still struggled with being apart from him that other 40%. (Now I have something like 85% physical custody, so it’s decidedly less of a struggle to take that break, and I do hope my son’s dad will want more time with him someday. But I digress.) Regardless of your custody percentage, co-parenting is so different than just being a working parent who’s away from your kid some 40-some-odd hours per week; in that scenario, you at least get to tuck them in every night. No parent, when deciding to have a kid, sets out to be away from that kid for 40% or 70% or more of their good-nights. Believe me: I feel for Spears.
I also know her fight is not likely to be easy; Federline has been in the role of primary custodial parent for a long time, and if he can show he’s been successful, a judge is not going to want to mess with the status quo. Another factor is the wishes of the kids themselves, since they are now both teens.
“While no law permits the child to choose their custody status,” family lawyer Gerald Tomassian writes in a statement for co-parenting app OurFamilyWizard, “most California courts believe 14 years of age is old enough to express themselves and the reasons why they prefer one parent over the other.”
And, of course, much of the judge’s custody decision will likely depend on Spears’ ability to prove her own mental fitness (pretty sure nobody’s going to argue with her physical or financial fitness) and her ability to provide for the health and safety of her children since reports surfaced that she has struggled with bipolar disorder (the singer has never confirmed this, however she did seek treatment at a wellness facility this past spring).
The kids’ safety is actually a relevant concern at this point; Spears’ eldest son was allegedly in a physical altercation with Spears’ father, Jamie Spears, this past summer. Kevin Federline even sought an emergency restraining order in court to protect his son from his grandfather Jamie; however, according to police reports, Federline decided not to file child abuse charges. Then again, he did also ask for monthly child support payments from Spears for nearly $40K per month, so maybe K-Fed’s heart isn’t…entirely in the right place here?
Plus, Us Weekly reports that Spears cannot legally have full custody of her kids while under a conservatorship; her aforementioned father Jamie (seems like a real gem, that one), has been Britney’s court-ordered conservator for over a decade due to her struggles with mental health and substance abuse. And in case you had any doubts, that relationship itself has had all kinds of complications, too.
“The relationship between Jamie and Britney has completely fallen apart,” a source told Us. “Britney remains very angry at Jamie because his actions with her kids resulted in losing custody time with the kids.” Which is precisely (part of) why “Britney’s goal in the new year is to go to family court and petition the judge for increased custody time with the boys,” the source explains.
“She has spent the last year prioritizing herself and her well-being, something she did not have a chance to do as much during her Las Vegas residency,” the source continued. “She has had less time with her sons but got really close with her mom, Lynne, and sister, Jamie Lynne, again recently.”
And those are likely some damn good supportive folks to have in her court as she heads to, um, court. Jamie Lynne wrote on Instagram in April in support of her sister, despite the drama surrounding her in the press: “I have been here long before anyone else, and I’ll be here long after. I love my sister with everything I have. So, anyone or anything that speaks to the contrary can GTFOH with all the comments about what you don’t understand. Do not come for me or the ones I love anymore.”
The bottom line with custody cases? “There is no one-size fits all solution,” Elysa Greenblatt, Partner at NYC’s Greenblatt Law LLC, tells SheKnows. “Ultimately custody comes down to the best interests of the children, and you may have reasons to share custody or to have one person be the primary physical custodian.”
We’ll be staying tuned — and sending strength and peace to the parents and especially the kids. For more on what parents need to know about custody, child support and more, read SheKnows’ Breaking Good custody guide here.