legal battle with her father, Jamie Spears over her 'conservatorship' has received renewed attention in recent weeks.
Over the past year, the case has been in and out of court, with the most recent ruling from a judge arriving on February 11, 2021, declaring that Jamie will no longer be the sole conservator of her finances. Instead, he will retain 50% control.
The news came at the same time that the New York Times released a documentary examining the conservatorship, Britney's background and emergence as a teen pop sensation and the ruthless and demeaning media scrutiny and coverage the star was subject to in a pre #MeToo celebrity gossip industry.
Since Britney burst onto the music scene at 16-years-old with 'Hit Me Baby One More Time', Britney has been one of the most-watched, written about and discussed women of the past 30 years. Her highs and, more specifically, her lows including mental health battles have been chronicled in detail and she has faced a barrage of harassment and commentary on her life ever since.
As the legal row over her estate, income, career and social comings and goings has now escalated and a viral #FreeBritney social media campaign has been taking place in the background (with even celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker, Gwyneth Paltrow and Bette Midler joining in after watching the documentary), we've broken down the need-to-know details of the conservatorship.
What is a conservatorship?
For more than 10 years, Britney's father Jamie Spears has been legally responsible for these areas of his daughter's life under a court order labelled a 'conservatorship'.
According to Cornell Law school, a conservatorship is a 'legal arrangement that gives an adult the court-ordered authority and responsibility to manage another adult's financial affairs. The conservator is a court-appointed guardian who becomes responsible for the 'financial and daily life affairs' of someone who is unable to make these decisions themselves, usually because of health conditions including a breakdown in mental health. The term 'conservatorship' is specific to certain states, including California which has jurisdiction over Britney's case.
In the UK, conservatorship is similar to a guardianship under the Mental Capacity Act - where someone can become appointed to make decisions over a person's treatment, living situation and day-to-day finances, should the person become unable to make these decisions themselves for health reasons. There is also an option to put someone in the position of Lasting Power of Attorney, where they can have the lifelong responsibility to make financial, property and medical decisions for the person.
Why does Britney Spears' dad Jamie Spears have conservatorship?
Fans of the 'Lucky' singer will remember that distressing time all too well. Hounded by the paparazzi, Britney's mental health deteriorated in front of fans' eyes while she was also involved in a messy custody battle and divorce with ex-husband Kevin Federline. Invasive pictures of the former teen wonder shaving her head and brandishing an umbrella at a paparazzo's car were published across the world. A devoted fan of Britney, Chris Crocker, was one of the first YouTubers to go viral when he pleaded with the world to 'leave Britney alone'.
According to a 2016 New York Times report, as conservator, Jamie has overseen career decisions including negotiations for TV roles, he also tracks purchases in order to protect her fortune, is involved in the custody arrangement for her children and medical decisions too like what pharmaceutical drugs she takes.
There was at one time also a co-conservator:- a lawyer named Andrew Wallet, however he resigned from the conservatorship last year.
What is Britney Spears doing now?
Britney has had a long road to recovery and, as her fans and followers have witnessed, she has largely managed to get her life back on track since 2008. She has released more music, embarked on several tours, held a Las Vegas residency and even had a stint as a judge on the US version of The X Factor.
Following the release of Framing Britney Spears, the 39-year-old seemingly addressed the renewed attention on her life and the legal case and the widespread concern for her welfare, producing a statement on social media in the following days which assured her fans she was ok.
Last year, after undergoing some health problems, Jamie stepped back as a conservator temporarily and requested that Britney's care-giver, Jodi Montgomery be conservator for the interim. Now, the conservatorship is up for extension and Britney herself has asked - through her lawyer - for Montgomery to stay in control, rather than her father.
According to The Blast, an August 2020 legal document reads: 'Britney is strongly opposed to having James return as conservator of her person. Rather, she strongly prefers to have Ms. Montgomery continue in that role as she has done for nearly a year... We are now at a point where the conservatorship must be changed substantially in order to reflect the major changes in her current lifestyle and her stated wishes.'
The legal documents do not criticise the conservatorship, in general, with Britney's lawyer recognising that when Jamie was first appointed, 'her conservators rescued her from a collapse, exploitation by predatory individuals and financial ruin.'
What is the latest development in Britney Spears Conservatorship court case?
On February 11, there was a hearing for the legal arguments regarding Britney's conservatorship in Los Angeles requested by Jamie who wanted to keep control of the conservatorship. After hearing both sides' arguments, a judge upheld an earlier ruling that Jamie cannot control all of his daughter's finances any more. He will retain 50% of Britney's conservatorship while the other half will be the responsibility of financial services company Bessemer Trust, who Britney nominated to take control of her finances last August, reports the BBC.
Britney is now believed to be estranged from her father, according to the New York Times. In an earlier court hearing in November, Britney claimed she was 'afraid' of her father and that she will not perform while he maintains control over her finances.
According to the BBC, following the ruling, Britney's lawyer said it was 'no secret' she didn't want her father to be a co-conservator, but she understood that removing him altogether was a 'separate issue'.
Lawyers for Jamie also issued a statement after the hearing, saying: 'My client looks forward to working with Bessemer to continue an investment strategy in the best interests of his daughter.'
According to a report by Variety, published in April, Spears is expected to speak in court on June 23 regarding her long-standing legal conservatorship.
At a hearing on Tuesday, April 27, the Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny reportedly scheduled a new hearing that will allow the singer to speak on the 'status of the conservatorship'.
What is #FreeBritney and who supports it?
Since 2009, there has been a steady movement growing on social media with fans pleading for Britney to be 'freed' from the allegedly overbearing shackles of the conservatorship.
Though she herself has rarely discussed the conservatorship, the singer - who is now mostly seen dancing in Instagram videos (even shouting out ex-boyfriend Justin Timberlake in one viral clip) - has reassured fans she is doing ok.
It is also worth pointing out that Jamie himself insists the #FreeBritney social media campaign is founded on conspiracy and rumour, labelling it a 'joke.'
On August 19, 2020 when the first hearing was held (with the ruling remaining unchanged until this recent decision), fans gathered outside of the Los Angeles courthouse holding up 'Free Britney' placards, wearing t-shirts adorned with her face and rallying further support through speakerphones.
According to The Mirror, also spotted outside the court was Britney's ex-husband and childhood friend Jason Alexander who she famously married for 55 hours in a Las Vegas chapel before getting it swiftly annulled in 2004.
On February 11, supporters were outside the courthouse once again and also staged a rally in Miami, Florida.
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