Britney Spears case throws spotlight on conservatorships

Britney Spears’ life since 2008 has largely been controlled by a court-appointed conservatorship.

Her case has thrown a spotlight on complex conservatorships.

So how does it work in California?

A conservatorship is a court-approved arrangement in which a person or organization is chosen to protect and manage the personal care and/or finances

of a person whom a judge has found to be unable to manage their own affairs.

FAMILY LAWYER, CHRISTOPHER MELCHER, SAYING:

"A conservatorship is placed over an adult who is unable to care for themselves or make decisions for themselves. It's an extreme measure. It's like what would happen with a parent/child relationship where somebody else is in control of this other person's life, where they move, where they go, who they see, what money they spend, what contracts they enter into so with an adult, it has to be a person who cannot resist fraud or undue influence or is so gravely disabled that they're unable to take care of themselves either temporarily or permanently. Usually these are folks with developmental disability or some severe problem that's happening with them."

A conservator's duties include:

Living arrangements

Healthcare

Transportation choices

Managing finances

Making investments

It can be a relative, friend or professional entity.

In Britney’s case she has joint conservators for her personal and financial affairs - but at the heart of both is her father, Jamie Spears.

In 2020, Spears began her attempts to remove him as her personal conservator.

It is unusual for someone of Spears' age and high profile to have been under such an arrangement for 13 years.

Details of her mental health issues have never been revealed.

In 2019 - the fan-based #FreeBritney movement began – which believes Spears is being held against her will and that she is sending cryptic messages through her Instagram postings.

FAMILY LAWYER, CHRISTOPHER MELCHER, SAYING:

"The media attention on Britney and the reasons for her conservatorship, I don't think are healthy for her because it does put her in a bind where she wants to keep her medical and mental health issues, if she has any, private but on the other hand, we have her fans who are insisting on an explanation and for her to be freed from this conservatorship and it puts her in a place where she either has to remain silent to protect her privacy and that now fuels more conspiracy theories or to be publicly go out with the information to dispel them, so that would put pressure on her and I don't think that's healthy.'

So can a conservatorship be brought to an end? And if so – how?

The conservatee – in this case Britney - can ask the judge at any time to end the conservatorship.

A court appointed investigator would evaluate the case and hear from all sides.

The conservatee must prove they can handle their own personal and financial affairs and the judge would make a decision.

Spears has not made such a request.

FAMILY LAWYER, CHRISTOPHER MELCHER, SAYING:

"I think Britney has not asked to end the conservatorship because she wants it to continue. The whole reason she was under this conservatorship is because she was being pursued by paparazzi, that she was being triggered perhaps to have a breakdown at a very vulnerable part of her life and so I think she may feel protected by this."

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