It’s been 13 years since Britney Spears has been under a conservatorship, but her battle for freedom is far from over.
The 39-year-old singer is expected to appear remotely before a judge on June 23 to address the court directly. This will mark the first time in years that Britney will speak in court about the conservatorship, which has been extended until September 2021.
Ahead of her appearance, ET’s breaking down everything you need to know about Britney’s legal battle, including what a conservatorship is, what’s happened in the case so far and why the beloved pop star is speaking out now.
WHAT IS A LEGAL CONSERVATORSHIP?
According to the Judicial Branch of California, a conservatorship is a court case where a judge appoints a responsible person or organization (called the “conservator”) to care for another adult (called the “conservatee”) who cannot care for him/herself or manage his/her own finances.
WHY IS BRITNEY IN A CONSERVATORSHIP?
In February 2008, Britney’s father, Jamie Spears, filed legal documents asking the court to grant him temporary conservatorship of the singer.
At the time of the filing, Britney was being held at the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles on a psychiatric hold. It was the second time that year that Britney had been placed on a 5150 hold, which allows a person (as a result of a mental health disorder, being a danger to others or themselves, etc.) to be involuntarily detained for a 72-hour assessment, evaluation and crisis intervention.
The court documents stated at the time that the “proposed conservatee” (Britney) was “unable to properly provide for his or her personal needs for physical health, food, clothing or shelter.” The judge granted Jamie temporary conservatorship.
In October of that year, Jamie petitioned the court to make him permanent co-conservator over Britney. The court approved the petition, making Jamie and lawyer Andrew Wallet co-conservators. Jamie and Andrew filed their first accounting documents in March 2009, in which it was noted they were getting payment for themselves — and having their legal fees paid — under the conservatorship.
IS BRITNEY STILL UNDER THE SAME CONSTRAINTS?
Yes, the conservatorship is still in place, but changes have been made in recent years by Britney and her legal team.
In April 2019, Andrew resigned from the conservatorship, leaving Jamie as the sole conservator of her person/estate. One month later, Britney’s mother, Lynne Spears, asked the court to give her access to Britney’s medical records.
ET reported in September 2019 that Jamie would no longer serve as Britney’s sole conservator. A judge appointed Jodi Montgomery as Britney’s temporary conservator (of her person). Jamie remained conservator of the estate.
In August 2020, new court documents revealed that Britney expressed through her attorney that she had no desire to perform at the time, and was opposed to having her father return as conservator (of her/the person). Through her legal team, Britney requested that her temporary conservator, Jodi, be made permanent, and nominated Bessemer Trust Company to serve as conservator of the estate in some capacity. A judge later agreed to make Bessemer Trust co-conservator of the estate with Jamie, and ruled in February 2021 that the two would have equal power over Britney’s finances.
Britney also filed documents in October 2020 to add more attorneys to her legal team from Loeb & Loeb LLP, and was approved. Previously, she had only one court-appointed attorney on her team, Samuel Ingham.
HAS JAMIE PUBLICLY ADDRESSED RECENT CHANGES TO THE CONSERVATORSHIP?
Yes. Last December, Jamie claimed in an interview with CNN that he had not spoken to his daughter in four months, and claimed that the two were on “good terms” up until her attorney filed to remove him as conservator.
“I love my daughter and I miss her very much,” he said at the time. “When a family member needs special care and protection, families need to step up, as I have done for the last 12-plus years, to safeguard, protect and continue to love Britney unconditionally. I have and will continue to provide unwavering love and fierce protection against those with self-serving interests and those who seek to harm her or my family.”
Then, in another CNN interview that aired in March, Jamie’s lawyer, Vivian Lee Thoreen, claimed that Jamie “would love nothing more than to see Britney not need a conservatorship. Whether or not there is an end to the conservatorship really depends on Britney. If she wants to end her conservatorship, she can file a petition to end it.”
“Jamie is not suggesting that he is the perfect dad or that he would receive any ‘Father of the Year’ award,” the attorney added. “Like any parent, he doesn’t always see eye-to-eye on what Britney may want. But Jamie believes every single decision he has made has been in her best interest.”
The interview came one month after Vivian defended her client in an interview with Good Morning America, saying, “I understand that every story needs a villain … Jamie serves as Britney’s conservator because he loves her. He wants the best for Britney.”
“People have it so wrong here. This is a story about a fiercely loving, dedicated and loyal father who rescued his daughter from a life-threatening situation,” she alleged. “People were harming her and they were exploiting her. Jamie saved Britney’s life. … Britney’s assets were clearly being mismanaged and she was being taken advantage of financially by some of those around her.”
WHAT IS THE #FREEBRITNEY MOVEMENT?
The viral hashtag was created by fans and is still used today by people who claim that Britney is being held against her will, and is trying to call for help through her social media posts. The movement has even sparked #FreeBritney rallies in Los Angeles, with Britney’s ex-husband, Jason Alexander, spotted at one in August 2020.
#FreeBritney gained momentum in April 2019 after Britney checked herself into a health facility to allegedly deal with the stress she was having over her father’s health crisis. The check-in came just a few weeks after Britney put her career on an indefinite hiatus, postponing her album and putting her Britney: Domination show at Park Theater at the Park MGM resort in Las Vegas on hold before it even began.
“I am dedicating my focus and energy to care for my family. We have a very special relationship and I want to be with my family at this time just like they have always been there for me,” Britney said in a statement at the time. “Thank you to all my fans for your continued love and support during this time. I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused and I look forward to the time when I can be back on stage performing for all of you.”
The hashtag went viral again in February following the release of The New York Times Presents: Framing Britney Spears. The unauthorized documentary examined everything from Britney’s rise to fame to her portrayal in the media, along with her ongoing conservatorship battle.
It also featured an emotional clip from MTV’s Britney: For the Record. In the documentary TV film, which originally premiered in 2008, Britney teared up while talking about how she would feel “so liberated” without any legal constraints.
“If I wasn’t under the restraints that I’m under right now, you know, with all the lawyers and doctors, and people analyzing me every day, and all that kind of stuff. Like, if that wasn’t there, I would feel so liberated and feel like myself,” she said at the time. “When I tell them the way I feel, it’s like they hear me but they’re really not listening. They’re hearing what they want to hear. They’re not really listening to what I’m telling them.”
“It’s like… it’s bad,” she added, as tears filled her eyes. “I’m sad.”
HOW HAVE BRITNEY’S FAMILY AND FRIENDS SHOWN SUPPORT?
Paris Hilton has been a longtime friend of the singer and supporter of the #FreeBritney movement. “I love her,” Paris said of Britney, while speaking to ET earlier this year. “I was actually texting her last week, and she’s just so sweet and down to earth and really an amazing woman. I’m so proud of her.”
She also said in an interview with The Sunday Times last August, “It breaks my heart that people have so much control over her.” Other celebrities who have spoken out include Miley Cyrus, Lance Bass, Sarah Jessica Parker, Drew Barrymore, John Mayer, Kim Kardashian West, Chrishell Stause, Jessica Simpson and Reese Witherspoon.
As for Britney’s family, an attorney for her ex-husband, Kevin Federline, told ET in February that his client doesn’t know if there’s still a need for the conservatorship to be in place. Britney and Kevin were married from 2004 to 2007 and share two kids together — sons Jayden James, 14, and Sean Preston, 15.
“[Kevin] of course feels that it’s always an extra layer of security to maintain structure and stability in anyone’s home where there’s a third party there, whose job it is to see that everything is organized and orderly,” attorney Mark Vincent Kaplan said. “[Kevin] thinks Jodi Montgomery has done an admirable job and he has no other position to state with regard to the conservatorship. Kevin’s main concern is that his boys are always safe and their best interests are maintained.”
(Kevin previously filed a police report in 2019 alleging that Jamie physically abused Sean Preston. A restraining order was granted at the time that prohibited Jamie from seeing his grandsons.)
Britney’s current boyfriend, Sam Asghari, also slammed the singer’s father in a post shared to Instagram Stories in February. “Now it’s important for people to understand that I have zero respect for someone trying to control our relationship and constantly throwing obstacles in our way,” Sam, who’s originally from Tehran, Iran, wrote. “In my opinion Jamie is a total d**k. I won’t be going into detail because I’ve always respected our privacy but at the same time I didn’t come to this country to not be able to express my opinion and freedom.”
A source told ET that Sam wants Britney to “finally be free of the conservatorship,” adding that he’s “one of the few people who doesn’t need a chaperone to be around her.”
The singer’s sister, Jamie Lynn Spears, has previously asked that the public “be kind” — as “everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about” — while Britney’s brother, Bryan Spears, spoke similar sentiments during his appearance on the As NOT Seen On TV podcast last summer.
“[Britney] has always wanted to get out of [the conservatorship],” he said. “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.”
Meanwhile, Britney’s mother has become even more involved in the legal case. After ET reported in March that Britney could have to pay nearly $2 million to her father’s lawyers, if the court approves, Lynne filed an objection contesting the legal attorney fees Jamie has requested.
Lynne objected to Jamie’s petition for approval and payment of over $890,000 to him and his attorneys, as well as related fees and expenses charged to the estate. She alleged in court docs that the fees and costs are improper, utterly excessive and not in good faith.
The law firm Holland & Knight, which represents Jamie, has since asked the court to overrule the objection filed by Lynne. Per the legal docs obtained by ET, the law firm asserts that Lynne’s objections are without merit and claims she is “not acting in the best interests of her daughter.”
WHY IS BRITNEY SPEAKING OUT NOW?
According to court documents, Britney’s father has previously argued with the singer’s attorney, Samuel Ingham, over whether his daughter has the capacity to speak directly in court. However, during a hearing in April, Samuel shared that Britney “requested” that he “seek from the court a status hearing where she can address the court directly.”
The hearing came just a few weeks after Britney assured her fans via Instagram that she was doing well. “Yes, I’m totally fine. I’m extremely happy, I have a beautiful home, beautiful children,” she said in a Q&A video filmed at her home. “I’m taking a break right now because I’m enjoying myself.”
Over the past few months, it appears Britney has become more vocal about issues regarding her personal life. On her Instagram, for example, she’s addressed everything from the “hypocritical” documentaries being made about her life (Framing Britney Spears and BBC’s The Battle for Britney: Fans, Cash and a Conservatorship) to the “empathetic and concerned” fans showing her support.
“Britney has considered speaking out about her past, mostly because she doesn’t feel others should tell her story,” a source told ET earlier this year. “At this point, there is no plan in the works for her to do an interview, but when she does, there will be steps Britney would need to take before speaking out.”
For more on Britney Spears’ conservatorship case, watch the video below:
Britney Spears to Address Court Directly in Her Conservatorship Case
Britney Spears’ Mom Objects to Dad Jamie’s $890,000 Attorney Fees
Britney Spears Says She’s ‘Totally Fine’ and ‘Extremely Happy’