For nearly half of Britney Spears's decades-long career as a world-renowned pop star, the "Womanizer" singer hasn't held full control of her life.
Britney has been under a conservatorship helmed by her father, Jamie Spears, since the singer's infamous breakdown 12 years ago, which resulted in hospitalization and rehab. Though the stigma surrounding Spears's mental health battles has followed the singer since 2007, her career never faltered. Marking an official comeback with her 2008 album, Circus, Britney continued to release albums, tour, star in a years-long Las Vegas residency, and launch business ventures including her lucrative perfume and namesake lingerie lines.
Despite multiple comebacks, however, Britney's longtime fans have vocalized their dissatisfaction in seeing the pop star continue to be under a conservatorship at 38 years old. Wholeheartedly convinced that the singer herself also wants to be free from the legal binding, fans launched the #FreeBritney movement, utilizing social media to bring awareness to the discrepancies surrounding the conservatorship.
Below, we break down how Britney's conservatorship came to be, why fans want to see Britney "free," and whether or not the singer wants full control of her life back.
What is a conservatorship?
A conservatorship, according to the California Courts official website, is where a judge appoints an individual or organization to care for another adult who is deemed unfit to care for themselves or to manage their own finances. For Britney's case, Britney is considered the "conservatee" and her father, Jamie, the "conservator."
For the last 12 years, the details of Britney's conservatorship have been private, but the singer recently filed documents via her lawyer that request parts of her conservatorship be open to the public, according to TMZ.
She also shared that she supports her fans speaking out on her behalf. "[Britney] welcomes and appreciates the informed support of her many fans," read a statement, per Britney's lawyer, proving that the #FreeBritney movement is not the social media hoax her father described it as.
Why was Britney's conservatorship put into place?
Britney was put under conservatorship following her very public breakdown in 2008. Following a year of seemingly erratic behavior—such as shaving her head and attacking a paparazzo's car with an umbrella—the singer was put under a "5150 hold" in a psychiatric hospital for a mental health evaluation.
At the time, Jamie petitioned courts for an emergency "temporary" conservatorship, alluding to the fact that his daughter was unable to properly care and manage herself amid her mental health struggles.
From there, Jamie was given the legal right to oversee and make decisions regarding Britney's finances, health, business deals, and personal life which he managed up until 2019.
Why are fans concerned about Britney's well-being?
Britney fans have long been wary of the conservatorship terms and have often questioned whether it was in Britney's best interest. Recently, the #FreeBritney movement made a resurgence because of an episode of the Britney's Gram podcast, during which an anonymous lawyer, formerly part of the firm that oversees Britney's conservatorship, expressed concerns over Britney's camp and her father running the pop star's life.
FreeBritney.net, launched in 2009, penned an overarching statement on why they believe Britney does not need a conservatorship this far into her life and career.
"During the twelve years of Spears' conservatorship she has repeatedly toured the world, released multiple albums, and worked on a variety of television shows," the site pointed out. "Her conservators decide whether or not she works, as she cannot enter into contracts for herself because she is legally not her own person. Britney Spears needs permission from her conservators to leave her house or spend any of her own money."
Fans have also gone out to the streets and protested on Britney's behalf, demanding an end to her conservatorship.
— Britney Fan (@BritneyHiatus) September 16, 2020
Britney's siblings and celebrity friends have spoken out about the conservatorship.
Britney's brother, Bryan Spears, did a rare interview in July. On Drew Plotkin's podcast As NOT Seen on TV, he spoke out about his sister's conservatorship.
"She's been in this thing for quite some time now. Obviously, there was a need for it in the beginning. Now they've made some changes, and all we can do is hope for the best," said Bryan. "She's always wanted to get out of it. It's very frustrating to have—whether someone's coming in peace to help or coming in with an attitude, having someone constantly tell you to do something has got to be frustrating. She's wanted to get out of it for quite some time."
Britney's younger sister, Jamie Lynn Spears, fervently shut down Instagram critics who claimed that she and her family weren't doing enough to support Britney through her alleged mental health struggles.
"If you deal with mental illness or care for someone dealing with mental illness, then you know how important it is to respect the situation with privacy for the person, and the family trying to protect their loved ones, no matter how it may appear to the public, and as the public we must learn to do the same," wrote Jamie Lynn in an Instagram post. "[People] have no right to assume anything about my sister, and I have NO right to speak about HER health and personal matters. She is a strong, badass, unstoppable woman, and that's the only thing that is OBVIOUS."
Jamie Lynn was also recently named the trustee of Britney's fortune.
A post shared by Comments By Celebs (@commentsbycelebs) on Jul 21, 2020 at 2:54pm PDT
Britney's longtime friend Paris Hilton also recently spoke out regarding Britney's conservatorship, stating that she knows what it feels like to have little control over one's own life.
"I feel like if you are an adult you should be able to live your life and not be controlled. I think that maybe stems from me being controlled so much so I can understand how that would feel and I can't imagine right now if that was still happening to me," said Hilton in an interview on Andy Cohen Live. "After just working your whole life and working so hard, she's this icon and I just feel like she has no control of her life whatsoever and I just don't think that's fair."
Britney reportedly does not want her father to return as head of the conservatorship.
According to court documents obtained by People, Britney is "strongly opposed" to her father returning to his role as the sole conservator of her "affairs and finances." Instead, Britney has voiced that she "strongly prefers" Jodi Montgomery, who has run her conservatorship since her father's stepping down due to health issues in 2019, continue in that role.
Interestingly enough, in the latest court documents, Britney declared that her conservatorship is voluntary, and that she would rather have more gradual autonomy over her life.
In another filing, Britney voiced through her lawyer that she eventually does want to have "power and authorization to pursue opportunities related to professional commitments and activities including but not limited to performing, recording, videos, tours, TV shows, and other similar activities as long as they are approved by the conservator of the person and the Conservatee's medical team."
Per The New York Times, Britney's conservatorship has been extended to at least 2021, and the singer's requests—including permanently removing her father from his role—will not be approved or altered until next February.
Britney's mother supports her daughter gaining control of her life again.
Per Entertainment Tonight, Britney has enlisted the help of her mother, Lynne Spears, to earn back control over her life again. Lynne recently filed a request to be included as part of Britney's SJB Revocable Trust, which recently named Jamie Lynn as the custodian.
"Britney trusts Lynne and has asked her mother to be part of her conservatorship. She truly believes that her mother wants to help her have more autonomy when it comes to her money," a source told ET. "Britney is aware that how she is doing psychologically seems to directly correlate to her spending habits. She knows right now she might not be ready to be in complete control but she wants more freedom to spend how she pleases."
The source added, "She feels her desires will be taken more seriously. She trusts her mother. They went through some tough times in their relationship but they are now closer than ever."
Britney has been granted permission to expand her legal team.
According to Entertainment Tonight, Britney's petition to expand her legal team in her conservatorship battle has been approved. Her father argued against the request claiming that it would cost his daughter too much money.
"Clearly, James' objectives are either to filibuster the appointment of a corporate fiduciary indefinitely or to dominate the entire process himself, including the selection of the fiduciary," said Britney's lawyer, Samuel Ingham, in court last week. "The only way to assure that Britney's voice is heard will be for her to have qualified litigation counsel available in order to place her on a level playing field with James."
Though Jamie's legal team has requested that Britney testify herself in person in court, the singer's lawyer has expressed that her intention is to solely be represented by her legal team. Britney was not present for this most recent hearing, but her father and her mother were in attendance.
Britney assures her fans all is well after a two-week break from social media.
After a two-week social media break, Britney addressed fans' consistent worry for the pop star. Taking to Instagram on November 4, she assured everyone that she's doing well amid her ongoing court battle with her father.
"Hi, so I know that there have been a lot of comments and a lot of people saying a lot of different things about me," Britney says in the video, "but I just want to let you guys know that I am fine. I'm the happiest I've ever been in my life. And I'm sending all of you guys a lot of prayers, wishes and a lot of love."
A post shared by Britney Spears (@britneyspears) on Nov 2, 2020 at 2:21pm PST
Britney reportedly wants her father "suspended immediately" from running her estate.
According to Entertainment Tonight, Britney's attorney, Sam Ingham, filed new documents on Tuesday, revealing that the singer has requested that her father be immediately removed as the sole conservator of her estate. The singer has requested that Bessemer Trust Company transition to be in charge of her assets.
Documents obtained by the outlet reveal that after Britney's business manager abruptly quit, her father appointed another manager without his daughter's approval or letting her know how much the new manager would cost the pop star.
"The Oct. 28 letter is a blatant attempt by [Jamie] to retain full functional control of her assets, books and records in the face of Britney's objections, Tristar’s resignation and the appointment of Bessemer Trust," read the documents. "His simple litigation strategy is to introduce a new gatekeeper who admittedly has a major working relationship with his legal team. Therefore, Britney will be filing a petition to remove James as conservator of the estate."
A Los Angeles court has rejected Britney's bid to remove her father as head of her conservatorship.
Los Angeles superior court judge Brenda Penny did not approve Britney's request to remove her father as head of her conservatorship, reported Variety. Though the judge did not dismiss future petitions of her father's removal, the result of the ruling now means that Britney refuses to perform or work again until her father steps down or is removed.
"My client has informed me that she is afraid of her father," said Samuel Ingham, Britney's attorney. "She will not perform again if her father is in charge of her career."
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