Britney Spears didn't petition to end her conservatorship — nor did any other of the major players involved.
Ahead of the highly anticipated June 23 hearing in her case, at which the 39-year-old pop star is expected to break her silence, a mystery petition was filed to terminate the controversial conservatorship that spawned the #FreeBritney movement.The question was who filed it — as even Spears's lawyer didn't know — and now we have an answer.
According to court documents obtained by Yahoo Entertainment, it was filed by someone named Stan Wantuch, who listed both Compton and nearby Rancho Dominguez, Calif., as residences. He appears to have no major connection to the case — as far as being one of the conservators, attorneys or "interested parties" such as a Spears family member.
In the filing — which was held up because the petitioner claimed not to have the $90 filing fee, which the court ultimately waived — Wantuch calls for the global super star to be terminated from the conservatorship of her person only, not the conservatorship of her estate. (Spears has two conservatorships. The one over her person, overseen by professional conservator Jodi Montgomery, to make decisions about the star's daily needs, including her health care, housing and safe-keeping. The second conservatorship is of her estate, run by Jamie Spears and Bessemer Trust, and oversees her financial empire.)
Wantuch lists himself an "interested party" in the filing, declaring that he's a "friend," "debtor" and "heir" of Spears's who's acting "in the interest of justice." He states he has personal knowledge that Spears "may have been suffering from severe depression" when she was placed in the conservatorship in 2008. And, by filing, he claims to have some type of evidence to prove that Spears has "shown consistently" that she can "take care of her own needs," noting she's able to feed, clothe and house herself as well as pay her bills.
"It is far past time for Ms. Spears to begin her life," writes Wantuch, who notes he's self-represented. "Time is running out. For us all. There is no danger to Ms. Spears or the public. It is in the interest of Justice."
A hearing is scheduled for Nov. 4, the filing notes. Spears's court-appointed attorney, Samuel D. Ingham III, has not yet responded to our request for comment about the petition. When the petition first surfaced, before the petitioner's identity was known and the document was filed, Ingham said, "I don’t know anything about this filing."
"It will be interesting to see how far this petition makes it," California-based family law attorney Christopher C. Melcher of Walzer Melcher tells Yahoo Entertainment.
Wantuch doesn't have a clear association with the case — and could just be a fan taking the #FreeBritney movement to the max. The court can dispense of the petition quickly if his claim that he's a “friend," "debtor" and "heir" is disproved. There could could also be repercussions for declaring under penalty of perjury that he is.
So who could petition to end the conservatorship? Spears, of course, the conservators, lawyers acting on their behalf and the so-called "interested parties" associated with the case, listed as her mom, Lynne Spears, siblings Jamie Lynn and Bryan Spears, and her children Sean Preston and Jayden James (through a guardian ad litem because they are minors).
Just because someone thinks she should be free from the arrangement — typically put in place for incapacitated individuals and not "high-functioning" ones, as Spears has been described — doesn't legally qualify a person.
"A member of the public might have standing to bring the petition, but that person must have personal knowledge of the facts stated in the declaration supporting the petition," Melcher says. "The publicly available information raises questions about the need for a conservatorship, but is not evidence."
In April, Ingham told Judge Brenda Penny that Spears wants to address the court about the "status of the conservatorship" — for the first time since she tried to remove her dad as co-conservator of her estate last fall — and that is set to take place June 23 at 1:30 p.m. PT.
Spears's dad, from whom the entertainer is estranged, has said through his attorney that his daughter can end her conservatorship at any time, noting she's "always had this right" but has "never exercised it." Ingham has said Spears is in a "voluntary" conservatorship, seeming to suggest Spears finds some benefit in having a conservator, but wants a say in who it is.
However, the conservatorship comes at a big cost to Spears. Not just her personal freedom, which is obviously a lot in and of itself, but she is footing the bill for all of it. A recent financial filing showed she was billed more than $2 million in legal fees for her dad alone — with nearly $900,000 spent for her his legal team to fight her in court to prevent his ouster. She also pays for her own lawyer's fees and pays each conservator a salary, among other costs.
Spears's lawyer said last year she's on an indefinite work hiatus until her dad is removed as conservator. On Thursday, Spears said she has "no idea" if she'll ever return to the stage again while answering a series of fan questions. "I'm having fun right now," said Spears, who spends a lot of time with boyfriend Sam Asghari. "I'm in a transition in my life and I'm enjoying myself."
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