Los Angeles, CA–Apparently the Britney Spears/Kevin Federline divorce/custody battle is over, at least for a while. In the face of a trial that was scheduled to start in a month, Spears instead agreed to give Federline sole legal and physical custody of their two sons.
I have received many letters over the past several months saying that I should take up Britney Spears’ cause. After all, I publicly advocate shared parenting, and should do so whether the noncustodial parent is a father, as is usually the case, or is a mother, as in this case.
A few people have told me that I should convince Federline to offer Spears shared custody. (Side note: I sometimes find the way people in other parts of the country view Los Angeles to be rather amusing. People seem to be saying, “Federline is in LA and so are you Glenn,” as if I could just call Kevin on up on his cell phone.)
As for backing Spears, sorry, but I’ll have to pass. One of the ways that feminists and others who oppose shared parenting distort the issue is that they claim that I and other fatherhood advocates call for “mandatory joint custody,” or that we believe in joint custody in all cases.
As I’ve said and written countless times, I believe in shared parenting for fit parents. If the father (or the mother) is physically abusive to either the spouse or the children, is a drug addict or a drunk, has mental issues or behaves erratically, or is not capable of providing a safe environment for the kids, I do not believe in shared parenting–I believe in sole custody for the fit parent. In this case, that would be Federline.
According to ABC News:
Spears pretty much accomplished the impossible. In 2006, when she filed for divorce, onlookers assumed the court would grant custody to the multimillionaire singer over the barely famous backup dancer. But as Spears’ life spiraled out of control, K-Fed’s stock rose.
“She snatched defeat from the jaws of victory,” said Paul Talbert, family law attorney at Chemtob Moss Forman & Talbert, a Manhattan matrimonial law firm. “K-Fed was the punch line to every joke when this all started, and now he’s basically the father of the year. It’s quite an accomplishment and a credit to his attorneys.”
The floundering pop star lost custody of her sons last year following a string of high-profile incidents of bizarre behavior, such as shaving her head bald, threatening paparazzi with an umbrella and checking into the hospital for a psychological evaluation. But lately, she’s cleaned up her act. This summer, she has been off the streets and in the recording studio. So why give up the good fight now?
“I think she looked at the cards and saw she had a losing hand and decided this was the smartest thing she could do at this point,” said Howard Bragman, chairman of Fifteen Minutes PR and author of the forthcoming “Where’s My Fifteen Minutes?” “Otherwise it would be a lot of money, a lot of heartache and a lot of labor for something her advisers said she probably wouldn’t win.”
Bragman added, “Her behavior since this all began has not been indicative of someone who thinks their most important priority is to keep their children. Nobody’s going to look at the past couple months in isolation. They’re going to look at the history since the separation began, and her history will bite her in the butt. You don’t have to be F. Lee Bailey to see that her case wouldn’t play well in court.”
Flashing the paparazzi, skipping court dates to go on shopping sprees, running into cars and speeding away. Months of immature displays painted such a poor picture of Spears there was no way Federline would not have won custody, lawyers said.
“The worst possible position a litigant in a child custody case can be in is when they can’t control their behavior during the case itself. It’s one thing to walk into court with a messy history [and] quite another when you can’t get yourself under control during the proceedings,” said family law attorney Marc Rapaport. “And that’s how she dug such a deep hole for herself in this custody dispute. At the end of the day, K-Fed, even though he wasn’t perfect either, was destined to get custody.”
I don’t believe that Britney Spears is a bad person, but she has not been a fit parent and it is entirely appropriate that Federline, who is a fit parent, get sole custody. Hopefully Spears will get her act together (she seems to be improving) and play an increasingly larger role in her children’s lives. Hopefully someday they will share custody. But at this point the children are safer and better off with Federline.
Others in the fatherhood movement have criticized Federline for receiving child support from Spears. I do not agree with this criticism. Spears earns far more money than Federline, and Federline is the children’s primary caregiver. He has also had to spend an enormous amount of time, money, and heartache over his custody case and dealing with Spears’ irrational, unpredictable, and detrimental behavior. He should receive child support to help him raise the children.
I would also add that Federline is one of the most unfairly maligned people of our time. For years he was crucified because he was not a career success, compared to Britney Spears. I always wondered how many 25-year-olds made millions of dollars a year like Spears, and I couldn’t understand why Federline was a “loser” simply because he didn’t.
The one legitimate thing that Federline was criticized for was the breakup of his first marriage to actress Shar Jackson. However, to his credit, he has helped raise his two children from that marriage. His ex-wife later said, “Federline is a great dad and if you said his name right now, Kori [his 5-year-old daughter] would go crazy. That’s the love of her life.” Not bad.