The details of Monday's hearing have been sealed, so the reason Spears lost custody is unknown. In general, though, not reporting to a court-ordered class or test is just as bad as failing one, says divorce lawyer Andrew Eichner of Chicago law firm Berger/Schatz. "She is going to have to fly straight for a long while, and if in three years or so she's clean and sober, things could change."
Though it is unusual for a woman to lose custody, "it's relatively common" for a mother to lose her children if she has significant, documented problems with drugs or alcohol, says San Diego psychiatrist Martin Greenberg. He adds that with another stint in rehab (the singer spent a month at Promises in February), Spears could regain custody, "as long as she shows she's motivated to get better."
Spears needs professionals, Deitch says. "It's clear that if she can't even make it to a urine test or parenting class in the face of losing her children, she needs some help to stabilize. So the gravity of her situation really sinks in."
And even then, he adds, she may stumble, because most substance abuse treatment centers aren't equipped to handle the "unique reasons women and mothers use drugs and alcohol. Most treatment is based on a male paradigm."
Deitch has seen many women who go into treatment after losing custody, and once they're sober, they fight to regain custody. But "for many women, getting children back can be a source of relapse."
Greenberg adds that the courts may still be compassionate for a young mother. "Lots of times, women are not ready when they give the kids back," but there is such a strong feeling that children should be with their mother that courts tend to err on the side of restoring custody.