The ongoing legal battle surrounding Britney Spears and her “abusive” conservatorship arrangement has been the subject of many headlines recently, as the singer has made new progress in removing her father, Jamie Spears, as her conservator.
Most recently, Spears has been granted the ability to select her own legal representation - something she hasn’t been able to do since 2008.
This is everything you need to know.
What is conservatorship - and why does Britney Spears have one?
Conservatorship is a legal concept in America, wherein a guardian or protector is appointed to someone if a court finds that they cannot manage their own affairs.
There are many reasons why a court might invoke conservatorship. It could be due to old age, being a minor, or if the person in question suffers from a serious mental illness.
The role of the conservator can vary, but usually they handle their conservatee’s estate and finances, as well as also possibly being responsible for their career negotiations, health care or living arrangements.
Many will remember that, in the late 2000s, Spears underwent a very public breakdown. As well as her infamous head shaving incident, she was also seen driving with her son on her lap, hitting a photographer’s car with an umbrella, and went through a phase of speaking with a faux British accent.
In 2008, she was committed to a psychiatric ward twice. After the second hold, her father, Jamie Spears, petitioned the LA County Superior Court for an emergency ‘temporary conservatorship.’ This arrangement was made permanent by the end of that year.
Her father was appointed to oversee Spears’ estate and physical wellbeing, while LA attorney Andrew Wallet was brought on as a co-conservator to also help manage the singer’s financial assets.
In 2019, Jodi Montgomery, who was Spears’ longtime care manager, was temporarily appointed to replace her father as conservator.
At the end of 2020, Spears pushed for Montgomery to become her permanent conservator, and to replace her father.
What has Spears said in court?
During the most recent court hearing, on Wednesday 14 July, Spears said: “I would like to charge my father with conservatorship abuse.
“I was to press charges against my father today. I want an investigation into my dad.”
Before that hearing, Spears also appeared in court at the end of June 2020 to request that her “abusive” conservatorship be terminated.
It was the first time that the singer spoke in open court regarding her case.
In her testimony, Spears said that she “deserves” to be freed from the legal arrangement that has dictated her life for the past 13 years.
She said: “This conservatorship is doing me way more harm than good.
"I deserve to have a life, I’ve worked my whole life. I deserve to have a two to three year break.”
Describing the arrangement as abusive, Spears criticised those who controlled it, including her father, Jamie Spears.
Last year, Spears said that she was “afraid” of her father, and that she wouldn’t return to performing whilst he was in control of her estate.
Speaking to LA Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny, Spears said that she wanted the conservatorship to end without a further medical assessment – she added that she wanted to be able to get married and have more children.
She told the court that the conservatorship requires her to use birth control to prevent her from getting pregnant. She said that her conservator had prevented her from having her IUD (intrauterine device) removed.
Spears also said that she had been made to take lithium, which is a common medicine for bipolar disorders, to the point where she felt so drunk she was unable to hold a conversation.
Spears said: “I feel ganged up on and I feel bullied and I feel left out and alone. And I’m tired of feeling alone. I deserve to have the same rights, having a child or any of those things.”
During her speech, she added: “I’ve lied and told the whole world, “I’m okay, I’m happy’. I’ve been in denial, I’ve been in shock.
"I am traumatised.”
However, court documents filed in Los Angeles show Judge Brenda Penny refused the request while rubber-stamping Bessemer Trust’s role as co-conservator of the estate.
The legal document stated: “The conservatee’s request to suspend James P Spears immediately upon the appointment of Bessemer Trust Company Of California, N.A. as sole conservator of estate is denied without prejudice.”
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What’s the latest update?
On Wednesday, Thursday 14 July, Judge Brenda Penny granted Spears the ability to hire her own lawyer, after her court appointed lawyer Samnuel Ingham stepped down.
It has been revealed that Spears will now be represented by Mathew Rosengart, and it is the first time that the singer has been granted a say in her legal representation since 2008.
Rosengart called for Spears’ father to step down as her conservator, stating outside the courthouse: “Jamie Spears should be removed as conservator because it is in [the] best interest of the conservatee.
“We will be moving promptly and aggressively for his removal. The question remains, why is he involved?
“He should step down voluntarily because that’s what’s in the best interest of the conservatee.”
After the hearing, Spears posted a video on Instagram of her doing cartwheels and horse riding, to the song Black Horse and the Cherry Tree, by KT Tunstall.
She wrote in the caption: “Coming along, folks… coming along!!!!!
“New with real representation today… I feel GRATITUDE and BLESSED !!!!
“Thank you to my fans who are supporting me… You have no idea what it means to me to be supported by such awesome fans !!! God bless you all !!!!!
“Psssss this is me celebrating by horseback riding and doing cartwheels today !!!! #FreeBritney.”
It appears to be the first time that Spears has used the hashtag - additionally her boyfriend, Sam Asghari, commented: “Internet about to explode #freebritney.”
Has Jamie Spears said anything?
Vivian Thoreen, a lawyer for Spears’s father, read out a brief statement on his behalf during the June hearing.
The statement read: “He is sorry to see his daughter suffering and in so much pain.
"Mr Spears loves his daughter and misses her very much.”
What is the Free Britney movement?
The #FreeBritney movement began in 2009, when a Britney Spears fansite started the campaign in response to the news of her conservatorship.
Those behind the #FreeBritney hashtag fear that the singer is being controlled and manipulated, despite people close to Spears insisting otherwise.
The #FreeBritney movement really got going after a podcast called Britney’s Gram (dedicated to analysing the singer’s Instagram posts) received a voicemail on the podcast hotline.
The message was from a man who claimed to be a former paralegal for an attorney who worked with Spears’ conservatorship, and who made various claims about the singer's personal autonomy and wellbeing.
Fans of the singer also believe that the pop star has previously been sending indirect messages through her social media pages.
The movement, and the hashtag, has been trending once again due to the ongoing updates to the singer's conservator arrangement.
What is Spears’ net worth?
Business publication Forbes states that Spears’ net worth is “shockingly low compared to her pop peers”.
It explains: “Spears, once a dominant and ascending force in pop culture, has a net worth of $60 million; [Jessica] Simpson and [Jennifer] Lopez each have built fortunes of more than $100 million, according to Forbes estimates.”
Court documents reviewed by Forbes last year found that Spears’ assets were mostly held in “various brokerage accounts, real estate and cash”.
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