Britney in rehab for third time in a week

By Jill Serjeant

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LOS ANGELES - Britney Spears' in-again out-again rehab saga found her back in a Malibu facility today, halting an emergency court hearing in which estranged husband Kevin Federline planned to discuss custody of their two children.

Celebrity websites reported that the pop singer returned late on Wednesday local time to the Promises rehabilitation centre, which she had fled earlier in the day after less than 24 hours of treatment.

Spears' spokesman did not return calls for comment on the reports, which followed a turbulent week that has seen one of the world's best-known pop stars in and out of rehab three times and shaving her own head.

The website of syndicated TV show Extra said there was video showing her driving through the gates of the luxury Promises centre with her mother.

Other reports said Spears returned after seeking a meeting with Federline yesterday but being denied entry to the house where he is staying with their children, Jayden James, 5 months old, and Sean Preston, 17 months old.

Spears filed for divorce in November after two years of marriage and both she and Federline are seeking custody.

Several reports said Spears returned for a full 30-45 days of treatment after Federline gave her a last chance to get help or risk losing custody of the children.

Los Angeles County Superior Court spokesman Allan Parachini said the family court was notified yesterday that papers requesting a hearing on the children could be filed. But Parachini said Federline's lawyers had called to say no court action would be held today.

"Kevin continues to be a very focused father with his children's best interests at heart," said a statement from Mark Vincent Kaplan, read by the lawyer's publicist, Michael Sands.

Spears hit the nightclub circuit hard after splitting with Federline and shocked fans when photographs of her getting out of cars showed she wasn't wearing panties under her miniskirts.

Last week, she was reported to have entered and fled a rehab center in Antigua after staying for less than a day.

When she returned to Los Angeles, she shaved off all her hair after a stylist refused to do it and got two new tattoos.

- REUTERS

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