Britney Spears: father Jamie Spears files to end singer's conservatorship - what is a conservatorship?

Britney Spears, the worldwide pop icon and celebrity with a net worth of over $60 million, has been appealing against the “abusive” conservatorship over her currently held by her father, Jamie Spears.

In the case’s most recent development, new US court filings reveal that the singer’s father, Jamie Spears, has filed to end his conservatorship controlling Britney Spears’ financial estate.

The conservatorship over Britney Spears has been in place since 2008, when Spears’ struggles with her mental health and lack of privacy from the US press and paparazzi peaked.

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Her father Jamie Spears was then granted legal power and authority over her life.

Britney Spears: father Jamie Spears files to end singer's conservatorship - what is a conservatorship? (Photo by Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

The conservatorship came under increased speculation as fans began to identify signs of Spears’ distress and anxiety when posting on social media or appearing publicly – with their concerns coalescing in the ‘Free Britney’ movement.

Many US commentators are saying that Spears’ conservatorship has shone a light on what can be considered an outdated and easily exploited legal practice, with fans and citizens alike now calling for its revision in US law.

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Here’s everything you need to know about the Britney Spears case, what a conservatorship is and what ‘Free Britney’ means.

What is a conservatorship?

Under United States law, a conservatorship can be granted by a court for those who are seemingly unable to make their own decisions over serious matters such as their life, estate, finances and health.

They are often used by families or spouses for a loved one who might be dealing with an illness such as dementia, Alzheimer’s or similarly severe mental health disorders.

Britney Spears’ conservatorship has two parts, with her father Jamie Spears holding power over both her finances and herself as person.

While Jamie Spears ceased to be hold the latter authority over Britney in 2019, as Jodi Montgomery temporarily replaced him as Britney’s personal conservator, the star is requesting that the court make this change permanent rather than temporary.

Conservatorships are seen in several other countries around the world, but operate under different names and with some major and minor differences depending on the country and legal system in question.

In the UK, England and Wales have a similar provision in the form of ‘deputyship’, while this is known as a ‘guardianship’ in Scotland.

Both allow the court to appoint an individual to make any decisions around finances and health on behalf of another person if they are seen as not having the capacity to make these decisions for themselves.

While there are more rigorous mechanisms in place in UK systems than there are in the US to avoid conservatorships from being exploited by an individual as Britney claims of her father, many people have voiced similar concerns over guardianship or deputyship and the decisions made by guardians or deputies in their name.

Why has Britney appeared in court?

Britney Spears first appeared in a Los Angeles Superior Court virtually on June 23 to ask its judge to end the conservatorship, describing it as “abusive” and saying it was forbidding her from enjoying both her personal and financial freedom.

In response, the judge has said that Spears’ would need to file a formal petition for removal of the conservatorship – adding that her comments and admission of her experiences were “courageous".

These comments included Britney’s shocking statement that she had been unable to remove her IUD and have children with her partner as a result of the conservatorship.

While the revelation that a judge refusing Britney’s request to have the conservatorship removed recently hit headlines, this refusal was in response to a filing with the court from several months ago, rather than her recent testimony.

At the Los Angeles Superior Court on July 14, Judge Brenda Penney said that Spears would be allowed to decide upon her new attorney and approved Matthew Rosengart as the singer’s choice.

The court also approved the request of a firm which had been the co-conservator of Spears’ financial estate to resign as co-conservator, leaving her father as the sole conservator of her finances.

After being appointed by the court to this position in November 2020, the Bessemer Trust pulled out of the arrangement which gave it joint control over Britney’s finances alongside Jamie Spears, meaning that her father is now the sole conservator of her finances.

Britney’s wish to have the conservatorship ended was confirmed on July 14 as she spoke in a court hearing after having her new attorney Matthew Rosengart approved by the court.

Britney said: “I want to make clear who I want as my own lawyer, I want to get rid of my dad and I want to end the conservatorship.

“I want to work on my confidence to go back into the world and I want my dad gone today.”

Britney Spears’ father Jamie Spears has suggested in recent filings to the Los Angeles Superior Court that he will be stepping down as the singer’s conservator.

The filings expressed Mr Spears willingness to step down from the conservatorship “when the time is right”, with documents stating: "Mr. Spears continues to serve dutifully, and he should not be suspended or removed, and certainly not based on false allegations.

"Mr. Spears is willing to step down when the time is right, but the transition needs to be orderly and include a resolution of matters pending before the Court."

The move has been heralded as a victory for the singer by Free Britney campaigners and fans, but many have noted that Mr Spears has still asked the court to deny the petition to have him actively removed from the conservatorship.

What is ‘Free Britney’?

The Free Britney movement was started by loyal Britney Spears fans back in 2009 who caught wind of the conservatorship and voiced their opposition to it on online fan sites for the star.

Since then, it has only built in popularity and media attention as fans paid close attention to news of the star and her posts on Instagram, where many voiced concern over Spears and monitored her posts for signs of distress and discomfort with her legal situation.

Fans increasingly began to hold protests outside courts in Los Angeles, with signs, banners and cardboard cutouts of the star, to call for an end to the conservatorship.

Posting on Instagram in late June, Britney said: “I believe as people we all want the fairy tale life and by the way I’ve posted … my life seems to look and be pretty amazing

“I’m bringing this to peoples attention because I don’t want people to think my life is perfect because IT’S DEFINITELY NOT AT ALL"

"I apologise for pretending like I’ve been ok the past two years … I did it because of my pride and I was embarrassed to share what happened to me.”

Over recent years, the movement has been documented along with the legal case in the media more widely, featuring in the popular 2021 documentary ‘Framing Britney Spears’.

The documentary received a mixed response from Spears herself, who in an Instagram post said: "I didn't watch the documentary but from what I did see of it I was embarrassed by the light they put me in.

"It takes a lot of strength to TRUST the universe with your real vulnerability cause I've always been so judged... insulted... and embarrassed by the media... and I still am till this day!”

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