- Giovanni Florean
Britney Spears' Conservatorship: What's Happening?
Updated: Oct 19, 2021
Britney Spears is widely considered one of the greatest popstars of our times, selling over 150 million records worldwide, winning a Grammy Award and seven Billboard Awards. She has also launched a perfume line, acted in movies and on television shows.
Britney Spears' personal life has been on display since she broke onto the scene in the late 1990s with ‘...Baby One More Time.’ Every few months, new issues regarding Britney Spears' conservatorship (which she has been under since 2008, initially with her father, Jamie Spears, in charge) come to the surface, with some fans even launching a #FreeBritney campaign on social media.
But what exactly is a conservatorship and how has it affected the popstar’s life?
What is a conservatorship?
According to the official website of the California Courts, a conservatorship happens when a judge appoints an individual or organization (the ‘conservator’) to care for another adult (the ‘conservatee’) who is considered incapable to care for themselves or handle their own finances, especially in cases of dementia or other mental illnesses.
The details of Britney's conservatorship have been kept confidential for the last 12 years, but the singer recently filed documents through her lawyer requesting that sections of her conservatorship be made public.
The rise and triumph of the ‘Princess of Pop’
Born in 1981, the Louisiana native has starred in The Mickey Mouse Club, returning to the spotlight in 1998 with her debut single ‘...Baby One More Time,’ which would go on to establish her as one of the greatest pop stars at the time.
Spears' growth continued for several years, as she developed a more daring and mature image. Her next albums ‘Britney’ in 2001 and ‘In the Zone’ in 2003 were also a huge success for the singer, who was soon labelled by many as the ‘Princess of Pop’. She dated NSYNC member Justin Timberlake between 1999 and 2002.
A troubled marriage and the fall of Britney’s public image
She married backup dancer Kevin Federline in September 2005, and the couple had two kids, Sean Preston and Jayden James. Spears and Federline divorced in November 2006. Federline eventually requested extra child support from Spears, and their legal battle ended in 2018.
Throughout the entirety of the 2000s, Spears was frequently in the news for reasons other than her music. Her behavior during this period was troubling and hit the headlines several times.
However, Britney’s most difficult personal year was definitely 2007, when she shaved her head and attacked a paparazzi’s car with an umbrella after staying in a drug rehabilitation centre. She lost custody of her sons to Federline in October, the same month she released her album ‘Blackout.’
The performance of the lead single ‘Gimme More’ at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards is regarded as one of her worst professional performances and a clear evidence of Spears’ struggle in her private life.
2008: the start of Britney’s conservatorship
On 3rd January, Britney was transported to UCLA Medical Center and placed on psychiatric hold for mental evaluation, also known as a 5150 hold, after refusing to give her ex-husband the custody of her children. Britney returned to the hospital under the same 5150 mental detention a few weeks later.
Following the two accidents that caused major media uproar, Britney’s father, Jamie Spears, petitioned the courts for an emergency ‘temporary’ conservatorship at the time, citing his daughter's inability to properly care for and manage herself due to her mental health issues.
On 1st February, her father was given the legal authority to oversee and make decisions involving Britney's finances, health, business transactions, and personal life, which he managed until 2019.
Just two months before the temporary conservatorship was set to expire, the court stated that Jamie Spears would maintain custody of his daughter indefinitely. Since then, the conservatorship started getting gradually extended over the years.
Britney’s career after the downfall
FreeBritney.net is considered the first website and public platform to ever question the validity of the popstar’s conservatorship back in 2009.
The singer keeps publishing several albums, including ‘Femme Fatale’ in 2011 and ‘Britney Jean’ in 2013. In December 2011, she married her former agent Jason Trawick, who then became a co-conservator. Her husband gained control over several decision-making aspects of her personal life. The couple eventually divorced in 2013.
In December 2013, she announced her first Las Vegas concert residency, ‘Britney: Piece of Me’, which would last until 2017.
2019: the turning point
In October 2018, Britney announced her second Las Vegas concert residency, called ‘Britney: Domination’. However, fans were shocked when in January 2019 she abruptly decided to cancel it. The reason was that her father’s health took a turn for the worse and needed to be hospitalised in order to heal from a ruptured colon.
Following the news of her father's failing health, the pop diva checked into a mental health treatment centre for a 30-day program.
Jamie Spears finally stepped down as a conservator in September 2019, with Britney’s care manager, Jodi Montgomery, taking his place. Since then, the singer has always stated that she didn’t want her father to be part of her conservatorship and asked for his permanent replacement.
The latest development of the case
In November 2020, Britney lost her bid to remove her father from her conservatorship and in December, it was extended until September 2021.
On 5th February, the documentary ‘Framing Britney Spears’, about the whole conservatorship case, was released and the film reignited media interest around the case.
On 23rd June, Britney made a 24-minute statement in a Los Angeles court. The popstar shared her experiences living under what she describes as an ‘abusive’ conservatorship. The singer claimed to have little to no privacy and was often forced to work against her will by her father. Nonetheless, her request to remove her father as conservator was denied by the judge.
Subsequently, Britney’s attorney and manager both resigned, allowing the singer to hire a new lawyer, Mathew Rosengart, who recently filed a new petition to remove Jamie Spears from his position.
UPDATE: On 12th August 2021, it was reported that Britney Spears' father agreed to step down as the singer's conservator, pledging to participate in an "orderly transition" to a new legal arrangement.
The #FreeBritney movement and the media interest
The site FreeBritney.net from 2009 was the first one to use this term and to speak publicly against the popstar’s conservatorship.
‘Britney’s Gram’, a podcast launched in 2017 by Tess Barker and Barbara Gray, started analysing and hypothesising over the singer’s cryptic Instagram posts. The project began as a simple hobby between friends, until an anonymous source, involved with one of the law firms linked to the conservatorship, confirmed their suspicions. ‘You guys are on-to something’, the source said.
After the abrupt cancellation of Spears' second concert residency in Las Vegas and her admission into the mental health facility in 2019, the fans rediscovered the term again and the campaign became even more prominent through TV coverage.
Britney’s die-hard fans often campaign outside court hearings, while several celebrities have recently expressed support for the #FreeBritney movement through social media, including her long-time friend Paris Hilton, as well as Miley Cyrus and Ariana Grande.
Britney’s family and friends’ positions on the controversy
In August 2020, Jamie Spears finally spoke out about the #FreeBritney movement. ‘All these conspiracy theorists don’t know anything. The world doesn’t have a clue’, he told Page Six magazine. ‘It’s up to the court of California to decide what’s best for my daughter. It’s no one else’s business’. He also spoke out about the aggressive behavior of some fans: ‘People are being stalked and targeted with death threats’.
In July 2020, her younger sister Jamie Lynn Spears addressed the issue, shutting down a user who questioned the mental health of the popstar. ‘You have no right to assume anything about my sister. And I have no right to speak about HER health and personal matters’, she wrote on Instagram. ‘She is a strong, badass, unstoppable woman, and that’s the only thing that is OBVIOUS’.
Her brother Bryan also stated in an interview in July: ‘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’, Bryan stated. ‘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 current boyfriend, Sam Asghari, released a rare statement: ‘I have always wanted nothing but the best for my better half, and will continue to support her following her dreams and creating the future she wants and deserves’, Asghari told People magazine.
What does Britney say about this?
Finally, what does the Princess of Pop have to say about all of this?
The popstar never openly talked about the issue until the most recent court hearings. However, in one of her latest Instagram posts, published on 15th July, Britney wrote a caption that lit a spark of hope among her fans. ‘Thank you to my fans who are supporting me... You have no idea what it means to me be supported by such awesome fans! God bless you all!’ the singer continued. ‘This is me celebrating by horseback riding and doing cartwheels today! #FreeBritney’.
It’s the first time the singer has ever mentioned the #FreeBritney movement or any legal battle surrounding it. Every day, the star’s conservatorship battle seems to come closer to a definite conclusion, partly thanks to the fans’ enthusiasm.
As mentioned earlier in this article there has since been an update to this story.
For more resources on women's rights, head to our dedicated Gender Issues & Feminism section.