Spears in hospital after dispute over her children

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The Independent US

The troubled pop star Britney Spears was in hospital yesterday after being carried out of her home on a stretcher following a police stand-off over a dispute about her children.

Police were called to the 26-year-old singer's home in Los Angeles after an argument with her former husband Kevin Federline over custody of their sons.

Spears finally handed over two-year-old Sean Preston and one-year-old Jayden James after three hours during which six police cars, two ambulances and a fire engine were sent to the gated community.

Television footage showed Spears on a stretcher and surrounded by police and paramedics as she was taken to an ambulance near her home.

She was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre where a spokeswoman refused to comment on her condition.

Police said officers were called to Spears's house at about 8pm local time on Thursday. Spears was apparently due to have custody of her sons until 7pm, when she was supposed to hand them back. A bodyguard for Federline arrived to pick up the boys, but Spears reportedly refused to hand them over.

After nearly three hours, police negotiated the handover of the children. Jason Lee, a police officer, claimed Spears was under the influence of an "unknown substance", but declined to give further details. No injuries were reported.

Spears and Federline, who were married in October 2004 and divorced in July last year, have been involved in a long and very public custody battle. The pair initially had equal custody of their two sons but Federline sought to increase custody after becoming increasingly concerned about his former wife's behaviour.

Federline currently has full custody of the children because Spears, who has limited visiting rights, has defied court orders. She had been ordered to undergo random drug and alcohol testings and to attend parental counselling.

The singer has appeared increasingly out of control since she filed for divorce from Federline in November 2006. Fans had hoped that the split would prompt the singer to relaunch her recording career, which had been on hold since her marriage. Instead Spears embarked on a period of high-profile partying.