For a few brief but tumultuous years, Kevin Federline put it all out there for everyone to see.
Then he packed it in and maybe never would have been heard from again, except for the fact that he shared two children with one of the most famous women on the planet, Britney Spears.
He didn't score any style points in the beginning, when he broke up with his pregnant girlfriend, whom he'd already had a daughter with in 2002, and promptly married Spears, then proceeded to go down in pop culture infamy with Britney and Kevin: Chaotic while living that tooling-around-in-a-Ferrari life. Then, two months after their second child together was born in 2006, Spears filed for divorce and the rest is history. As well as the haunting subject of the recent New York Times Presents episode "Framing Britney Spears."
But people can change. Or at least grow up.
"Things don't really bother me unless it's really something serious," Federline told VladTV in 2016. "Something that's going to harm my children, or personally harm somebody that I love, or that's next to me, that's close to me… So, like, talk is cheap. I'm pretty strong when it comes to all that stuff, which I think is how I personally survived through it—emotionally, mentally—I'm still the same person that I was when I moved to L.A. 20 years ago."
Recalling his fraught time with Spears, being trailed by paparazzi everywhere they went ("I've met guys that built companies off of following us around for two years") and the turmoil that followed the implosion of their marriage, the Fresno, Calif., native said, "That was at the, like, height of everything and you're thrown into this thing and you're thrown into that thing and the in-between stuff. I know it happened. I know why it happened. That's pretty much all that I'm going to say."
And though Spears' staunchest supporters will never forgive him for disrupting her life in any way and ending up on the receiving end of five-figure monthly child support payments for his time, these days Federline is otherwise just your average family guy, remarried and now a father of six. And even the woman he wronged in the beginning has always had kind things to say about him as a parent.
"He's an amazing dad," Shar Jackson, mother of Federline's 19-year-old daughter, Kori, and 16-year-old son, Kaleb, who was born two months before her ex married Spears, told People in January 2007, just months after he and the "Baby One More Time…" singer split up.
"He's a great dad," she continued, "and if you said his name right now, Kori would go crazy. That's the love of her life." Asked to describe the child's bond with her father, Jackson said, "He was there for her every minute of her life until, you know, we weren't together anymore. He did everything for her, so I guess that's why." (He wasn't paying her child support, Jackson, also mom to a son and daughter with ex Corey Jackson, told Inside Edition in November 2006. But Federline was paying for school, "and they go to a very expensive private school.")
The Moesha actress said, "It's not really hard [to co-parent] because we were friends even before we were romantic and we were friends through being romantic and there was no reason to change that." As for Federline, "Everything he does, as far as his career, and everything like that, he does it for his kids. When he's doing that, I'm super mom. Hopefully we'll get to alternate but we always know the kids are first."
And the many angry fingers pointed at Federline following the demise of his and Spears' two-and-a-half-year marriage?
"He's a trouper," Jackson said. "He knows that everything in life is, you know, an experience and you learn from it and then you get past it. I'm not worried about him."
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It was Spears who started to spiral that year, the paparazzi's relentless hounding, the media scrutiny, the pressures of stardom and her concerted efforts to defy expectations and do as she pleased ultimately colliding in an explosion of erratic behavior and concern for her well-being. Having previously been granted joint custody, a judge gave Federline sole physical custody of their sons, then 2-year-old Sean Preston and 12-month-old Jayden James Federline, on Oct. 1, 2007. Fighting her way back from that arrangement would prove a long slog, made all the more complicated by the conservatorship that's been managing her personal and financial affairs since January 2008.
"It was extremely tough watching her go through a phase where she was clearly not OK right after the divorce," Federline reflected to Us Weekly in 2015. "There's a lot more I could have done to help. Taking full custody of the boys sucked the life out of me, but it was for them."
He told Vlad TV, "All I was trying to do was get 50/50 custody. You know, events that unfolded over time, if you want to Google them and go back and look at them, then you'll see why it turned out the way that it did. But now, none of that matters. Everything is cool. Both of us have moved on, our kids are doing great."
They did eventually return to 50/50, but in August 2018 the arrangement was altered to the boys being with their dad 70 percent of the time and their mom 30 percent, the court formally signing off on those terms a year later. "The boys love their mother but the existing arrangement, as reflected in the terms of the most recently entered order, are reflecting what Kevin believes is in the children's best interest," Federline's longtime family law attorney Mark Vincent Kaplan told E! News in September 2019.