1 of 20
2008 gets off to a rocky start for Britney Spears: The singer is taken from her Studio City, Calif., home to an L.A. Hospital on a gurney Jan. 3. Police say she was under the influence of an unknown substance and refused to return her children to Kevin Federline after a visit. Earlier that day, the singer arrived 90 minutes late to a custody deposition after missing several past appointments.
2 of 20
Although she skipped a court-ordered deposition on Dec. 12, Spears still finds time to get out and about, driving herself to the Four Seasons Hotel the same night. Her pal Sam Lufti told the press at the time, "She's sick, both physically and high anxiety."
3 of 20
A standard pit stop at a Sherman Oaks, Calif., gas station turned sensational Dec. 7 after the owner accused Spears of stealing a lighter – retail value $1.39. And the pop star copped to it, boasting to photographers, "I stole something. Oh, I'm bad."
4 of 20
HAVING HER CAKE
How did Spears mark her 26th birthday? With a low-key celebration on Dec. 1 at the Scandinavian Style Mansion – a private residence – in Bel Air, Calif. At the bash, Spears received a chocolate cake and a birthday hug from pal Paris Hilton.
5 of 20
DOING HER BEST
Back in October, it was all fun for Spears, who made it a Halloween mash-up – Is she a showgirl? A fiesta
queen? Both? – during Heidi Klum's annual costume extravaganza at
Hollywood's the Green Door. That morning, the pop star called in to Ryan Seacrest's radio
show to defend herself, saying, "It's sad how people ... how cruel our world
can be. But at the end of the day you gotta know in your heart that you
are doing the best that you can."
6 of 20
Britney Spears – and the paparazzi! – arrive at family court in Los Angeles on Oct. 26 to face off with Federline. At the time,
Superior Court Commissioner Scott Gordon made no ruling, though he heard
testimony in the ongoing custody battle.
7 of 20
8 of 20
The pop star goes incognito but there was no denying her presence Oct. 16 as
she arrived at the Van Nuys Jail to take her booking picture (in connection to
two driving-related misdemeanor charges). Spears was described as
"cooperative" as she smiled and was fingerprinted.
9 of 20
Finally, some rare good news: Spears reconciles with her family, hanging with 16-year-old sister Jamie Lynn (who soon after would reveal her pregnancy) en route
to Taco Bell in Los Angeles Oct. 5. The pop singer also enjoyed a
reunion with mother Lynne, whose presence was a comfort just two days after
Spears lost custody of her two kids. Said a source at the time: "Brit really
needed her mom."
10 of 20
IN THE DRIVER'S SEAT?
11 of 20
After being charged with a hit-and-run, the emotion finally catches up with Spears on Sept. 21 in Westwood, Calif. Days earlier, a judge in her custody case called her a "habitual, frequent and continuous" user of drugs and alcohol and ordered the singer to take random drug tests and to see a parenting coach. Making matters worse, an ex-bodyguard recently revealed that he had witnessed Spears using drugs.
12 of 20
STOPPING THE SHOW
Spears's opening performance at Sept. 9's MTV Video Music Awards in Las Vegas gets panned by critics and picked apart by fans online. Even Spears herself was disappointed with her showing. "She was just plain nervous because of all the hype," a source told PEOPLE. "She's embarrassed."
13 of 20
14 of 20
WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS ...
Though she intended to make a sweet escape to Las Vegas with her sons (and brother) July 25, Spears actually violated an agreement forbidding her from taking the kids out of state without permission. Also on the trip: a bodyguard for the singer got into a dust-up with a photographer after shielding the Spears brood from cameras.
15 of 20
16 of 20
NO LOVE LETTER
On June 28, Spears surprises her mother Lynne in Valencia, Calif., with a note requesting that she stay away from her two grandchildren. At the time, Lynne Spears joked with X17 photo agency that the paper was a "love letter," and clarified that she had not been officially served. A family friend told PEOPLE of the rift: "[Lynne] is brokenhearted."
17 of 20
Staging a series of "comeback" performances at House of Blues venues across the country, Spears hits a glitch after the background track skips during a May 20 gig in Orlando, Fla. Her solution? She turned away from the crowd until the song – to which she was lip-synching – got back on track.
18 of 20
CHECKED IN, CHECKED OUT
Just one day after entering Malibu rehab center Promises on Feb. 21, Spears checks out of the facility "against their advice," and heads for the Bel-Air Hotel. Previously she had visited Eric Clapton's Crossroads Centre in Antigua but also left there after a day. Spears later returned to Promises and described the experience as "very humbling," writing on her Web site, "I truly hit rock bottom."
19 of 20
Spears shocked the world when she debuted a bold – and bald! – new look Feb. 16, after she shaved off her hair at Esther's Haircutting Studio in Tarzana, Calif. While she smiled for the cameras – and later hit the clubs in shades and a wig – she teared up and blurted out, "My mom is going to freak," the salon owner told PEOPLE.
20 of 20
A NEW START?
A new year and a new set of controversies! Britney Spears reportedly left her own New Year's party at Pure nightclub after fainting, although her manager chalked it up to "exhaustion" and not too much alcohol as had been reported. In the coming weeks, the bad news continued when the singer topped Mr. Blackwell's worst-dressed list and went out with (and broke up with) Isaac Cohen.
Leonardo DiCaprio Speaks Out on Gilbert Grape Star Darlene Cates' Death: She 'Was the Best Acting Mom I Ever Had'
Johnny Depp Hits Back over Claims He Squandered His Money, Alleges 'Smear' Campaign
12 Stars Over 50 Who Are Defying the Laws of Aging
It's Been Almost a Year! Inside Leonardo DiCaprio and Nina Agdal's Sweet, Globe-Trotting Romance — from Ibiza to St. Bart's