Amid much frenzy, the troubled pop star finally showed up at the Los Angeles County Courthouse around 1:30 pm Monday, ostensibly to fight for the right to see her boys.
However, Spears pal Sam Lutfi told E! News via text message that the throngs of paparazzi awaiting the singer's arrival made it impossible for her to enter the building, as there was "no way to get her out of the car safely." Spears' entourage, including current boyfriend Adnan Ghalib, circled three times before giving up.
As the morning session of the custody hearing wound down with no sign of Spears, multiple sources told E! News that she was weighing the possibility of showing up for the afternoon session. Her lawyer, Sorrell Trope, even phoned the pop star from the courthouse, imploring her to come.
Instead, Lutfi told E! News he took Spears to church and then to get some lunch. The group dined at a Gaucho Grill restaurant near her Studio City home. In the meantime, the hearing resumed without her.
Kevin Federline, on the other hand, showed up early for the court date, arriving just after 9 a.m. at the Los Angeles County Courthouse for the 9:30 a.m. hearing, which was closed to outsiders.
Spears' visiting privileges were revoked earlier this month, after she refused to turn two-year-old Sean Preston and 16-month-old Jayden James over to Federline at the appointed time, leading to a three-hour showdown with police and emergency medical technicians.
The 26-year-old singer was subsequently hospitalized and placed on an involuntary hold at L.A.'s Cedar-Sinai Medical Center on the grounds that she was a potential danger to herself or others.
Monday's hearing was called to discuss the well-publicized meltdown and to give Spears the opportunity to provide her side of the story.
"She will have the opportunity to persuade the court that she can have some visitation under monitored conditions," Federline attorney Mark Vincent Kaplan told the AP ahead of the hearing.
Both police and paramedics who responded to the situation were expected to testify at the hearing, which could last longer than one day, given the number of witnesses due to be called.
Sources close to Federline's camp told E! News Kaplan intends to ask the court to extend the suspension of Spears' visiting privileges until April in light of her recent behavior.
Developing story. More to come.