Video: Is Spears a changed woman?

By Senior legal analyst
msnbc.com
updated 5/9/2008 2:17:29 PM ET 2008-05-09T18:17:29
LEGAL ANALYSIS

Britney Spears said "Gimme More" to an L.A. judge regarding her custody case, and the judge did. Commissioner Scott Gordon gave Spears expanded visitation rights, allowing her to spend more time with her two young sons, Sean Preston and Jayden James, after a closed hearing on Tuesday.

While the judge did not change the order granting Kevin Federline sole custody of the two boys, he did reward Spears' efforts to improve herself.

It is important to understand that judges are not punishing parents when they bar them from having contact with their children in custody and visitation cases.  Instead, a judge must always put the best interests of minors first when making any decision. Spears was not punished when she was prevented from seeing her children; rather, her children were being protected from her erratic and unsafe behavior. However, once a parent demonstrates progress and improvement, a judge will reward a parent for their good behavior in order to facilitate the bond between the parent and child. This is because reuniting parents and children is generally the court's goal, wherever possible.

While Spears has made many mistakes as a parent, and most of them publicly, she has spent the last few months since she left the psychiatric hospital trying to improve herself. Her parents have been placed in control of her life, and that seems to have had a positive influence on her. 

The court rewarded Spears' efforts to clean up her act by increasing her time with her children. It seems she is more sincere this time around in her desire to spend time with her kids. Before, it appeared she was just going through the motions to exercise her parental rights, all the while behaving like a monster-mom.

When Spears' children are older, they will be able to read all the media reports of their mother's behavior, and see all the video. If Spears is able to mature into a stable and loving mother, she may be able to ease some of the hurt, embarrassment, and confusion her children may feel when they look back at the footage of their mother when they were just toddlers. 

If she is not, she is leaving them a video legacy of poor parenting that will be clearer than any hazy childhood memories of a less-than-present mom.

As this court case has demonstrated, Spears' behavior stripped her of her parental rights, and her improved behavior can restore them.  It is up to Spears what kind of mother she chooses to be. The court will follow her lead. 

Susan F. Filan, Esq. is an MSNBC senior legal analyst. Prior to joining MSNBC, Filan worked as a prosecutor and trial lawyer for the state of Connecticut.

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