Conservatorships are legally binding arrangements intended to help incapacitated persons who can no longer care for themselves or their financial affairs. It is intended to protect these vulnerable persons from exploitation and abuse. However, in the case of Britney Spears, she alleges that her 13-year-old conservatorship has been used as a vehicle to do the very things it was established to protect her from (exploitation and abuse) by none of than her own father: James Parnell Spears.
PAGE ONE: What Led To The Conservatorship
PAGE TWO: Britney’s Cries For Help
Like many, I first discovered that Britney was in a conservatorship when the infamous hashtag #freebritney trended on Twitter a few months ago. Before that, I had been completely unaware Britney was placed in a conservatorship of both her person and her estate since her public unraveling back in 2007.
Following the birth of two children and a divorce from her husband of two years (Kevin Federline) Britney reportedly experienced a bout with alcohol and substance abuse (and likely postpartum depression.)
While being relentlessly pursued by the paparazzi, her parenting choices were often brought under scrutiny and harshly criticized, most notably in 2006 when she was caught driving with one of her infant sons on her lap.
Naturally, this rather bizarre behavior was concerning for many onlookers, seeing a child put in imminent danger by it’s own mother in public. My personal instinct is to then wonder at the things taking place behind closed doors if she was behaving this recklessly in public.
I believe her excuse was that she was trying to protect the child while being hounded by paparazzi, but the paps denied this claim. It’s also just poor logic, seeing as how the child is in far more danger on her lap in front of that steering wheel, held haphazardly with one arm in a moving vehicle, rather than safely in a car seat while paps take pictures from a distance. She also reportedly justified the moment by saying it’s what her father used to do with her all the time.
Following her public unraveling, in which she shaved her head and subsequently attacked a paparazzi’s car with an umbrella, Britney temporarily lost custody of her children to ex-husband Federline and was only granted visitation.
Around January 2008, Britney officially lost full custody of her two children, and even had her visitation suspended after refusing to return the children to Kevin, as well as skipping out on a court-ordered drug/alcohol test. After a standoff with police in her Beverly Hills home, she was taken out of the house on a stretcher and 5150’ed (meaning she was involuntarily committed to a psychiatric facility and thought to be a danger to herself and others.)
FROM THE GUARDIAN:
“The court in Los Angeles issued the ruling after Spears was arrested and stretchered away from her home by ambulance earlier today after refusing to hand her children over to Federline.
A four-hour standoff at the troubled singer’s Beverly Hills mansion began at 7pm on Thursday (0300 GMT) when she refused to hand her sons, two-year-old Sean Preston and one-year-old Jayden James, over to the children’s father.
Police officers arrived at Spears’ home at around 8pm. She finally turned over the children at around 10.50pm, according to the Los Angeles police department.“
As a result of Britney’s very public mental health crisis and her life falling to shambles, her father James Spears (aka Jamie Spears) stepped in and was granted a conservatorship of both her person and her estate. Here’s what that looks like, according to The Associated Press:
“With a fortune of more than $50 million comes secrecy, and the court closely guards the inner workings of Spears’ conservatorship. Some aspects have been revealed in documents. The conservatorship has the power to restrict her visitors. It arranges and oversees visits with her sons, ages 14 and 15; father Kevin Federline has full custody. It has the power to take out restraining orders in her name, which it has used more than once to keep away interlopers deemed shady. It has the power to make her medical decisions and her business deals. She said at Wednesday’s hearing that she has been compelled to take drugs against her will, has been kept from having an intrauterine device for birth control removed and has been required to undertake performances when she didn’t want to. Legally, Spears can get married, but the conservatorship must approve it as with other major life decisions. Spears said Wednesday that she wants to get married and have another child, but has been denied the chance to do either.
Her father has largely been in charge through the years, and the stereotypical image of a parent preying on a famous child’s fortune fuels the enmity against James Spears and the conservatorship, though his every move is scrutinized by the court. From 2008 until 2019, he had power over her life choices, and he and attorney Andrew Wallet controlled her money. Now, he has financial control only, and must share that role with the Bessemer Trust, an estate-management firm. Jodi Montgomery, a court-appointed professional, now acts as conservator over her personal matters.“
Apart from the multitude of obvious ways a conservatorship robs the conservatee of their agency (in addition to the emotional consequences and loss of autonomy from being a child celebrity) I find it particularly troubling that Britney is not even allowed to appoint her own legal counsel to look into the matter of the conservatorship on her behalf. Nor can they defend her if any untoward things are occurring among the conservators.
A conservatee is well and truly trapped, because they are deemed mentally incapacitated, and therefore have no say in how they should be treated or how their life should be ran. They are also not considered good judges of character when deciding who should be in control of their lives. That’s why this situation is so legally perplexing: Britney is essentially the only one who can prove she is being abused, yet she has also been deemed mentally inept, and is therefore not a credible enough witness to help substantiate these allegations in the eyes of the court.
Thankfully for Britney, she was recently granted the right to choose her own legal counsel, something she has fought for since Day One of her conservatorship back in 2008, when she attempted to hire a lawyer but he was not allowed to represent her in court. Her conservatorship attorney since then (Samuel D. Ingham III) was court-appointed. However, he recently resigned, opening a window for Britney to request new representation of her own choosing.
However, I can also see the other side of this dilemma. Despite having much sympathy for her and hoping she ultimately receives justice, I am still capable of understanding why Britney wasn’t allowed to choose her own legal counsel for so long. Enter: Sam Lutfi, her supposed ex-manager who allegedly sent her further down the path of destruction after they met in 2007 and he tried to take control of her life.
His influence over Britney proved detrimental to her health and her career, as he allegedly forced her to take drugs to remain under his control, as well as severed her communication with her family to ensure she could not be saved. As a result of his relentless efforts to maintain influence over Britney even after her father stepped into the picture, in 2009 her family requested and were granted a restraining order to keep Sam out of contact with themselves as well as the star. The restraining order was renewed in 2019.
“In April, Spears posted an Instagram video in which she spoke to fans after being admitted to a mental health facility and accused Lutfi of fabricating emails from her.
‘Don’t believe everything you read and hear,’ she wrote in the caption. ‘These fake emails everywhere were crafted by Sam Lutfi years ago… I did not write them. He was pretending to be me and communicating with my team with a fake email address. My situation is unique, but I promise I’m doing what’s best at this moment.’”
PAGE TWO: Britney’s Cries For Help