#FreeBritney – what is conservatorship and what does it mean for the star?

A court in Los Angeles has been looking at the management of Britney Spears’ business and personal affairs, specifically in relation to the control her father has over them.

Britney has told the court that she has been denied the right to have more children and put on psychiatric drugs against her wishes under arrangements she calls “embarrassing and humiliating”.

What exactly is conservatorship and how does it affect the pop star? Conservatorship works rather like power of attorney in this country, where it is granted by a court for individuals who are viewed as unable to make their own decisions, and is usually used in cases where someone has dementia or other mental illnesses, as the BBC explained.

Father given control over estate

In 2008, Britney suffered a breakdown and at the time the court ordered that her father, Jamie Spears, be given control over her estate and other aspects of her life. The singer later tried to dismiss her father from the role and a grassroots fan movement sprung up, known as the #FreeBritney campaign, arguing that Britney should be given back control of her own affairs.

Britney’s conservatorship is split in two – one for her financial and estate, and other for her as a person. She has not had control over her finances since 2008. Britney’s father was originally in charge of both parts, but he stepped down from his role as her personal conservator in 2019, and this was taken over by a care professional, Jodi Montgomery, as a temporary arrangement. Britney has requested this appointment be made permanent.

Britney has also indicated she does not want her father’s involvement in her career from now on. The New York Times obtained confidential court records that showed the singer had expressed serious opposition to the conservatorship some time ago and that it restricted many aspects of her life, such as who she dates and even the colour she decorates her kitchen cabinets.

‘Too much control’

In 2016, the report said Britney felt the conservatorship had “too much control”.

In 2020, a judge refused to remove her father but named a financial firm as a co-conservator of her estate. Later, the same judge extended Jamie Spears’ conservatorship to September 2021.

Under the conservatorship, Britney has released three albums, made numerous TV appearances and held a residency in Las Vegas until 2019. Her net worth in 2018 was some $59 million, according to Business Insider. In that year, she is supposed to have spent $1.1 million on legal and conservator fees.

The #FreeBritney term dates to 2009, when a fan site disagreed with the arrangement overseeing Britney’s affairs, and has become more prominent in recent years. Fans have even asked the White House to step in and submitted petitions with tens of thousands of signatures. Two documentaries have tackled the subject.

The hearing is expected to last some time.

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