Britney Spears' Troubles Mount

Tuesday, October 2nd 2007, 7:22 am

By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Britney Spears hit another personal low, being ordered to relinquish her children by a judge who had cited her drug-and-alcohol-fueled lifestyle.

Ex-husband Kevin Federline will take Sean Preston, 2, and Jayden James, 1, beginning Wednesday ``until further order of the court,'' Los Angeles County Court Commissioner Scott M. Gordon ruled Monday.

Phone messages left for representatives of Spears and Federline were not immediately returned.

This is the latest problem to plague Spears, whose fortunes have taken a very public turn for the worse since splitting from Federline, 29, last year. The two were married in October 2004. Spears filed for divorce last November and it became official in July.

Since becoming single, Spears has appeared increasingly erratic and out-of-control. First, she was photographed at various Hollywood hotspots partying hard with Paris Hilton, with some photos capturing the pop star without panties. Then Spears shaved her head as paparazzi looked on, beat a car with an umbrella and ended up spending a month in rehab.

Last month, Gordon said Spears engaged in ``habitual, frequent and continuous use of controlled substances and alcohol'' and ordered her to undergo random drug and alcohol testing twice a week as part of her ongoing custody dispute with Federline.

Spears also was previously ordered to meet weekly with a ``parenting coach'' who was to observe and report back to the court about her parenting skills. Both Spears and Federline must complete the court's ``Parenting Without Conflict'' class.

Spears was set to redeem herself and return to the pop throne with a much-hyped performance at the MTV Video Music Awards last month. But it was universally panned, with Spears appearing spaced-out and lethargic _ and, in some eyes, less than buff. The following week, her management firm dropped her and her divorce lawyer resigned.

Spears was then charged with misdemeanor counts of hit-and-run and driving without a valid license for allegedly crashing into a parked car in August.

The driving offenses likely compelled the judge to issue Monday's orders, said New York divorce lawyer Raoul Felder. Officials from the Department of Motor Vehicles said Spears applied for a California driver's license but did not complete the process.

``She was driving without a license with a child in the car,'' Felder said. ``You can put aside the in and out of rehab, the shaving her head. But this? When a judge went out on a limb for her? There's no going back.''

Though Spears must relinquish physical custody of the children until further ruling from the court, she and Federline still share legal custody.

Los Angeles divorce lawyer Connolly Oyler said he's surprised the children weren't taken from Spears sooner. Judges typically remove youngsters from households where parents are ordered to undergo drug testing, he said.

But, he added, all is not lost for Spears.

``If she picks a good counselor and gets a different set of friends, there's a good chance she can turn things around,'' he said, noting ``she's only 25.''

The couple is due back in court Oct. 3. Spears' new album is set to be released Nov. 13.

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