Britney Spears’s private life has been on display ever since she burst on the scene back in the late ’90s with “…Baby One More Time.” It seems that every few months, new questions arise about the conservatorship the pop icon has been under since 2008 (initially with her father, Jamie Spears, in charge), with some fans even starting a #FreeBritney campaign.
But what, exactly, does a conservatorship mean, and what does the Spears family have to say about it? Let’s break it all down.
What is a conservatorship?
According to the Judicial Branch of California’s official website, 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 himself or herself or manage his or her own finances.”
In February 2008, Britney Spears was put under a temporary psychiatric hold in Los Angeles, where she was treated at a UCLA facility. Following those measures, her father and an attorney were granted a temporary—then permanent (in October 2008)—conservatorship over her assets, estate, and business affairs.
The order has been in place ever since, though Jamie stepped down as a conservator in September 2019 due to “personal health reasons,” with Britney’s longtime “care manager,” Jodi Montgomery, taking his place.
In August 2020, People obtained new court documents that show Britney is “strongly opposed” to Jamie’s returning as conservator and instead “strongly prefers” that Montgomery continue in the role. “We are now at a point where the conservatorship must be changed substantially in order to reflect the major changes in her current lifestyle and her stated wishes,” Britney’s court-appointed attorney, Samuel D. Ingham III, says in the filing, according to the outlet.
As of November 4 that year, Britney filed an official motion to permanently remove her father as a co-conservator of her estate, per Us Weekly. Her lawyer reportedly requested that Bessemer Trust Company be the sole conservator moving forward.
“It is now obvious that any effort to create a viable working relationship between and among BRITNEY, BESSEMER TRUST and JAMES would be doomed to failure even without the added stress of litigating BRITNEY’S objections to the Account,” her lawyer reportedly wrote in the court document.
On November 10 a judge denied Britney’s request to remove her father from her conservatorship. “That’s the subject of another discussion down the road,” Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny said, according to CBS. Samuel Ingham III, Britney’s lawyer, said the singer has told him “on many occasions” she’s afraid of Jamie and doesn’t want to perform professionally while he’s in his current role.
On February 11, 2021, probate Judge Brenda Penny upheld the partnership between Jamie Spears and Bessemer Trust, rejecting the elder Spears’s petition to grant him sole control over his daughter’s estate, which Ms. Spears evidently does not want. After the decision Britney’s lawyer, Samuel Ingham, told the press, “It’s no secret that my client does not want her father as co-conservator, but we recognize that removal is a separate issue.” So this is, at least, not a step backward.
However, after Britney’s explosive testimony against the conservatorship in late June (more on that below), Bessemer Trust has removed itself from the equation.
What, exactly, is #FreeBritney?
There is a certain segment of the internet that’s become convinced Britney is sending secret messages to fans asking for help. It really gained steam back in 2019 but seems to pop back up again every few months, especially when Brit is active on social media. The gist is that fans think Britney wants out of the conservatorship, and they’ve started a movement, #FreeBritney, to support her. For a really deep dive on the movement, click here.
She even responded to fans concerned about her well-being with an Instagram post in April 2019.
What does her family say about all of this?
In July 2020, Jamie Lynn Spears shut down someone on social media who was questioning her older sister’s mental health. “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 to the commenter. “She is a strong, badass, unstoppable woman, and that’s the only thing that is OBVIOUS.”
In August 2020, Jamie Spears finally spoke out about the #FreeBritney movement.
“All these conspiracy theorists don’t know anything. The world don’t have a clue,” he told Page Six. “It’s up to the court of California to decide what’s best for my daughter. It’s no one else’s business. I have to report every nickel and dime spent to the court every year. How the hell would I steal something?”
Jamie Spears also spoke out about the aggressive behavior of some fans. “People are being stalked and targeted with death threats,” he said. “It’s horrible. We don’t want those kinds of fans. I love my daughter. I love all my kids. But this is our business. It’s private.”
In late August 2020, news came to light that Jamie Lynn Spears had been appointed trustee of Britney’s SJB Revocable Trust, which means she’s responsible for making sure Britney’s fortune is placed in a trust that will benefit her children in the event of her death. The appointment happened in 2018, according to Entertainment Tonight.
Okay, but what does Britney think of #FreeBritney?
Us Weekly reports there was a September 2 court filing, which the outlet obtained, and in it Britney’s lawyer claims that #FreeBritney is “far from a conspiracy theory” and that she welcomes the support. “Britney herself is vehemently opposed to this effort by her father to keep her legal struggle hidden away in the closet as a family secret,” her attorney, Samuel D. Ingham III, said in the document (according to Us Weekly), requesting her case be open to the public.
“Far from being a conspiracy theory or a ‘joke’ as James reportedly told the media, in large part this scrutiny [on social media] is a reasonable and even predictable result of James’s aggressive use of the sealing procedure over the years to minimize the amount of meaningful information made available to the public,” Ingham continued, per Us. “Whatever merits his strategy might have had years ago when Britney was trying to restart her career, at this point in her life when she is trying to regain some measure of personal autonomy, Britney welcomes and appreciates the informed support of her many fans.”
Paris Hilton has weighed in too.
While speaking to Andy Cohen on SiriusXM’s Radio Andy, Paris Hilton shared her feelings on her friend’s conservatorship. “I saw her this summer. We’ve had dinners, I saw her in Malibu. I just love her so much,” Hilton said in the interview which went live on September 10. “I feel like if you are an adult, you should be able to live your life and not be controlled.”
Hilton continued, “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. 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.”
Hilton did explain that she hasn’t spoken to Spears about the situation first-hand. “I don’t like bringing things up like that,” she said. “She is so sweet and so innocent and such a nice girl. We just talk about happy things. Music, fashion…fun things. I never like to bring up negative things and make people feel uncomfortable, so I’ve never talked about it with her.”
Britney Spears may be done performing for good.
According to court documents obtained by Entertainment Tonight, Spears is pushing back against the appointment of Andrew Wallet as co-conservator of her estate, as requested by her father. Wallet previously served in this capacity from 2008 to March 2019.
The documents reportedly claim that Wallet is both too expensive and “uniquely unsuitable” for the role. “To this date, Britney has not resumed performing and has stated that she does not desire to do so at this time,” the docs reportedly state.
Britney’s lawyer further alleges that the change was requested by her father “an hour before the last hearing” because “Britney’s decision not to perform will require him to undertake drastic changes to her budget.”
“Apparently this frugality does not extend to the fees James pays from the conservatorship to the financial professionals with whom he surrounds himself,” the documents reportedly continue, per ET. “Apart from the fact that Mr. Wallet has been extremely expensive in the past, based on what occurred over the 11 years he served as her co-conservator, there is no reason to believe that Mr. Wallet will be able to work with Britney to explain and implement any difficult budgetary choices that must be made.”
Britney has reportedly petitioned to appoint Bessemer Trust Company of California as conservator of her estate, per ET, as she would rather “work with a corporate fiduciary who can offer both a physical office and a team of independent financial professionals rather than a single individual, hand-picked by her father, who is a complete stranger to her.”
Her father, according to additional docs obtained by ET, reportedly claims his daughter’s response to his request is “full of factual misstatements.”
The New York Times released a documentary about the situation.
It’s called Framing Britney Spears and premiered February 5, 2021.
What does Britney think of Framing Britney Spears?
The elusive pop star took to Twitter to (obliquely) respond to the documentary, writing, “Each person has their story and their take on other people’s stories !!!! We all have so many different bright beautiful lives !!! Remember, no matter what we think we know about a person’s life it is nothing compared to the actual person living behind the lens !!!!”
Earlier in the month Spears’s boyfriend Sam Asghari spoke out and called her dad Jamie a “dick,” so we can imagine he’s not a huge fan of the situation overall.
Spears finally spoke in court.
On June 23, Spears addressed the court directly and said she wants her conservatorship to end. “This conservatorship is doing me way more harm than good. I deserve to have a life. I’ve worked my whole life,” she said. “I deserve to have a two- to three-year break and do what I want to do…. I’m tired of feeling alone. I deserve to have the same rights as anybody does by having a child, a family, any of those things, and more so.”
Variety has the full transcript, which you can read here.
A judge denied Britney Spears’s request to remove dad Jamie from conservatorship.
In November 2020, Britney Spears’s lawyer petitioned to remove her father, Jamie, as sole conservator of her estate, stating the pop icon was “afraid” of him. Her lawyer also introduced a new entity, Bessemer Trust, to potentially serve as Britney’s sole financial conservator. But in an unfortunate turn of events, the judge denied this request on June 30 and instead officially made Jamie and Bessemer Trust co-conservators. It’s worth noting this decision isn’t in response to Britney’s shocking testimony on June 23, where she revealed she wants out and is furious with her family.
Now: Bessemer Trust wants out as co-conservator.
It cited Britney’s testimony as the reason. In a legal filing, the wealth management firm said, “As a result of the conservatee’s testimony at the June 23 hearing, however, Petitioner [Bessemer Trust] has become aware that the conservatee objects to the continuance of her conservatorship and desires to terminate the conservatorship. Petitioner has heard the conservatee and respects her wishes.”
On July 2, L.A. Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny ruled that Bessemer Trust’s resignation would be “immediately effective.” This officially leaves Jamie as Britney’s sole conservator, per People.
Miley Cyrus chants #FreeBritney during her Las Vegas concert.
Miley Cyrus is supporting the #FreeBritney movement. During her Fourth of July concert in Las Vegas she changed the lyrics to “Party in the U.S.A.,” singing “The taxi man turned on the radio, he turned to me and said, ‘Free Britney, Free Britney!’”
Britney Spears’s manager Larry Rudolph has resigned.
Rudolph is no longer representing the singer, Deadline reports. “It has been over 2 1/2 years since Britney and I last communicated, at which time she informed me she wanted to take an indefinite work hiatus,” Rudolph wrote in a letter. “Earlier today, I became aware that Britney had been voicing her intention to officially retire.”
He added, “As her manager, I believe it is in Britney’s best interest for me to resign from her team as my professional services are no longer needed.”
Read the full letter here.
Spears’s court-appointed lawyer, Samuel D. Ingham III, has submitted a petition to resign.
In her shocking testimony, Spears alleged she was not made aware she could petition for the end of her conservatorship—something that would be Ingham’s job; he was appointed to the role in 2008.
Britney Spears’s mom, Lynne Spears, petitions the court to allow Britney to choose her own attorney.
Lynne Spears is advocating for Britney to be able to choose her own representation in her conservatorship case. Lynne petitioned the Los Angeles County Superior Court for Britney to pick her attorney, according to CNN.
“Now, and for the past many years, Conservatee is able to care for her person and in fact has, within the parameters of this conservatorship, earned literally hundreds of millions of dollars as an international celebrity,” the petition states.
The filing was made one week after Britney’s testimony in which she asked for her nearly 13-year conservatorship to be terminated.
Jodi Montgomery claims Jamie Spears used his daughter’s money for his own defense.
In documents filed in Los Angeles court on July 9, per People, Britney’s personal conservator accused Jamie of taking “more than $2 million of his daughter’s money” to defend himself and remain in control of Britney’s estate.
“It is ironic that Mr. Spears now wants the conservatorship to ‘reflect her wishes,’ since it is no secret that Ms. Spears has wished her father out of her life for years,” Montgomery’s lawyer Lauriann Wright also wrote in the document. Read more, here.
Britney is granted the right to hire her own attorney, demands her father’s removal from her conservatorship.
“I’m here to get rid of my dad and charge him for conservatorship abuse,” she told a court on July 14, according to Variety. “I want to press charges for abuse on this conservatorship today…all of it.”
She continued, “I’m here now today, your honor, to remove my dad altogether.”
According to Variety, the pop icon told Judge Brenda Penny, who oversees her case, that she was made to take psych tests “against her will” during her Circus concert tour, which ran in 2009. She says she was told if she complied, her life would go back to normal. “I did it all and they lied…they did nothing,” Spears said. “They didn’t end it, and I kept working.” The singer added she doesn’t want people to “question my intelligence for the millionth time.”
Per Variety, Spears told the judge she’s not “perfect” but that her “episodes” stemmed from “what they did to me,” presumably referring to her conservators. “It was their goal to make me feel crazy, which I’m not.”
In her testimony, Spears also claimed her father got her driver’s license taken away, made sure she couldn’t drink coffee, controlled her diet, and took away her “pink hair vitamins.” “That’s not abuse. That’s just fucking cruelty,” she said.
She also opened up a bit about her history with her father, saying, “I was always extremely scared of my dad and scared he was going to show up drunk somewhere.
“Instead of trying to investigate my behavior or my capacity, I want my dad investigated,” Spears said. “This conservatorship is literally allowing my dad to rule my life…. That is abuse, and we all know it.”
She also said, “I’m angry, and I will go there,” referring to her desire to sue her father for conservatorship abuse.
For the time being, Spears has requested the conservator of her person, Jodi Montgomery, remain on her case.
Shortly after the hearing, the lawyer Spears hired, Mathew Rosengart, called for Jamie Spears to voluntarily step down from his daughter’s conservatorship. “This is not working. What is supposed to be at the heart of this has been lost,” he said. “There is a real question as to why Mr. Spears does not voluntarily step down today…. Is he here for financial reasons? Does anybody really believe that Mr. Spears’s involvement is in the best interest of his daughter?” Rosengart also confirmed his firm would be investigating the origins of Spears’s conservatorship, which was put into effect in 2008. He said, “A conservatorship was probably not necessary.”
Jamie’s lawyer, Vivian Thoreen, said the elder Spears would not resign.
Britney officially filed to remove her father from her conservatorship.
Per The New York Times, Britney’s lawyer, Mathew Rosengart, filed the petition on Monday, July 26. He cited that if “Ms. Spears has sufficient capacity to choose her own legal counsel, she likewise has sufficient capacity to make this nomination.” She’s asking for a certified public accountant in California, Jason Rubin, to be named conservator of her estate.
Jamie agrees to step down as conservator of Britney’s estate.
Per TMZ on August 12, Jamie’s lawyer said in official documents, “Even as Mr. Spears is the unremitting target of unjustified attacks, he does not believe that a public battle with his daughter over his continuing service as her conservator would be in her best interests. So, even though he must contest this unjustified Petition for his removal, Mr. Spears intends to work with the Court and his daughter’s new attorney to prepare for an orderly transition to a new conservator.” Click here for more details.
Jamie files a petition to end Britney’s conservatorship.
“[Britney] is entitled to have this Court now seriously consider whether this conservatorship is no longer required,” the petition reads, according to NBC News on September 7. “The conservatorship has helped Ms. Spears get through a major life crisis, rehabilitate and advance her career, and put her finances and her affairs in order. But recently, things have changed…Ms. Spears is now outspoken in her frustration with the level of control imposed by a conservatorship, and has pleaded with this Court to ‘let her have her life back.’”
It’s worth noting this filing, while a victory for Britney overall, paints the conservatorship in a positive light. In June, however, Britney said very plainly she feels the conservatorship is “abusive” and has done her “way more harm than good.”
Britney wants Jamie out as conservator ASAP.
On September 22, TMZ reported that Spears’s attorney, Mathew Rosengart, had filed documents essentially agreeing with her father’s assessment that the conservatorship no longer serves Britney and that she should be released without medical evaluation, something she mentioned during her emotional testimony months prior.
This post may be updated as new information becomes available.
Originally Appeared on Glamour