US pop-sensation Britney Spears has requested that a Los Angeles Court ends the “demoralising” and “abusive” conservatorship which has controlled her life for 13 years. But what exactly is a conservatorship? And why is this case so controversial? Here’s everything you need to know about Britney Spears’ conservatorship.
Since 2008, Britney Spears has been under the control of a conservatorship, in which her father James “Jamie” Spears has overseen all aspects of her lifestyle. The conservatorship had previously been instituted following mental health struggles experienced by the singer. More specifically, her widely publicised breakdown in 2007, where Britney shaved her head and attacked paparazzi, was a contributing factor towards her being placed under a conservatorship.
Conservatorships are court-established guardianships which give legal authority to conservators to make major decisions on behalf of individuals considered to be unable to do so themselves
But what exactly is a conservatorship? Conservatorships are court-established guardianships which give legal authority to conservators to make major decisions on behalf of individuals considered to be unable to do so themselves. In this case, Jamie was legally appointed as Britney’s conservator. He oversees and makes decisions on Britney’s behalf, controlling areas such as her finances, personal life, healthcare, and business.
On the surface, it would seem that the conservatorship has been a positive factor in re-building the damage the star seemingly inflicted on her own legacy during her tumultuous mental health struggles of 2007. Building on her success from the late nineties and early noughties, the princess of pop has released four hit studio albums over the past 13 years. She has also toured numerous times across the globe, completed a Las Vegas residency, and pursued numerous successful business endeavours.
But in reality, this success has hidden a much more disturbing truth. At 39-years-old, Britney is still legally under the control of her father. She has practically no say over any aspect of her life, public or private. A testimony delivered by Britney herself to a Los Angeles Court in June 2021 revealed the harrowing truth behind her continuing fame over the last decade.
Spears detailed how she had been forced to work against her will and was even involuntarily placed on the medication lithium after she refused to perform
Speaking out for the first time, Britney detailed the abuse she has suffered under the conservatorship of her father and others. Comparing her situation to “sex trafficking”, she detailed how she had been forced to work against her will and was even involuntarily placed on lithium medication after she refused to perform. The singer touched on her wishes to retire after performing virtually non-stop since the age of 16, but she was forced to continue.
But the conservatorship didn’t just affect the star’s work life. She emotionally described how she was prevented from seeing a doctor to have her IUD birth control removed, which prevented her from having more children. Furthermore, Britney is prevented from getting married, driving her own car, or even seeing her friends. “I just want my life back,” the singer pleaded, requesting an end to the conservatorship.
The social movement known as ‘Free Britney’ was launched by fans to raise awareness of the conditions Spears was placed under, and to grant her autonomy from her conservatorship
This was not the first time that concerns had been raised over the well-being of the singer. Allegations of mistreatment emerged after an anonymous source from Britney’s legal team alleged that the star was involuntarily checked into a psychiatric facility in late 2019 after refusing to perform.
The social movement known as ‘Free Britney’ was launched by fans to raise awareness of the conditions that Britney was placed under, and to grant her autonomy from her conservatorship. ‘#FreeBritney’ has gained mass support online since 2019 and it continues to grow, with celebrities such as Miley Cyrus, Paris Hilton, and Justin Timberlake voicing their support for the singer and pleading for her release from the conservatorship.
These allegations of maltreatment were seemingly confirmed, as moves towards ending Britney’s conservatorship were made. A court filing was ordered by her legal team in November 2020, which expressed the star’s desires to amend the conservatorship to remove her father as her sole conservator. The singer’s lawyer, Samuel D. Ingham III, told the judge that Britney was “afraid of her father.”
However, on 1st July 2021, Judge Brenda Penny denied Britney’s request to remove her father from her conservatorship. It is currently unclear as to why the US judge denied the request. The decision has been met with much public outrage and criticism, with over 500,000 tweets being made using the hashtag ‘#FreeBritney’ and various celebrities speaking out against the decision. Even Britney’s own mother, Lynne Spears, has supported her daughter, stating that she “should no longer be held to the 2008 standard” and should be allowed to appoint her own lawyer.
The outpour of support from celebrity figures has helped to raise awareness not just for Britney, but for others in similar conservatorships
While this may be a setback in the journey to free Britney from her conservatorship, the outpour of support from celebrity figures has helped to raise awareness not just for Britney, but for others in similar conservatorships. In the US alone there are currently an estimated 1.3 million adults subjected to conservatorships, which are argued to have minimal monitoring in place, with abuse allegations being common.
Britney has been invited to testify against her conservatorship in front of the US Congress, while US Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bob Casey have requested for increased federal oversight on conservatorships. The singer’s legal team is expected to file a new petition to end her conservatorship, which is currently an ongoing case. So far, Jamie Spears is refusing to resign from his role in the conservatorship.
In-article images courtesy of @britneyspears via instagram.com. No changes were made to these images.
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