Spears loses custody of children to ex-spouse

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Britney Spears’ troubled personal life upstaged her bid for a career comeback on Monday as a judge ordered the pop star’s ex-husband to take sole custody of their two children later this week.

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No reason for the decision was contained in the court order that was made public. Representatives for Spears and her former spouse, Kevin Federline, a dancer and aspiring rap performer, were not immediately available for comment.

The same judge, Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Scott Gordon, ordered Spears two weeks ago to undergo random drug testing and to hire a parenting coach after finding evidence of “habitual, frequent and continuous use of controlled substances and alcohol” by her.

His latest order stated that Federline “is to retain physical custody of the minor children on Wednesday ... at 12 p.m., until further order of the court.” Gordon also set another hearing in the matter for Wednesday.

The ruling came as Spears, whose recording career had been on hold since she married Federline three years ago, was returning to the pop charts with her new single “Gimme More.”

Spears, 25, and Federline, 29, divorced in July but have remained embroiled in a bitter battle over custody of their two sons, Sean Preston, 2, and Jayden James, 1.

Before this week, they had shared 50/50 custody of the boys, but Federline’s lawyer, Mark Kaplan, told reporters in August that his client was seeking greater control of his sons to keep them “isolated from risks.”

Adding to Spears’ legal woes, the singer was charged on September 21 with leaving the scene of an accident after police said she ran into a parked car last month. She also was charged with driving without a valid license. Published photos and TV footage taken in recent days have shown Spears driving with her two sons in her car.

Since filing for divorce last November, Spears has made headlines with a steady stream of erratic behavior -- shaving her head before entering rehab, firing various staff and stripping down to her underwear for an impromptu ocean swim in front of photographers, among other incidents.

Earlier this month, her highly anticipated comeback appearance at the MTV Video Music Awards was widely panned as an embarrassing flop, though “Gimme More” has been climbing the radio charts.

Since Thursday, the song, a single from her upcoming untitled album, has ranked as the most downloaded track on Apple Computer’s iTunes online music store.

The song appears poised to break onto Billboard magazine’s Hot 100 singles chart later this week with what could be Spears’ highest ranking since her debut 1999 hit “... Baby One More Time.”