Britney Spears’s conservatorship and Free Britney movement, explained

Under legal conservatorship, the star has not had full control over her personal life or career since 2008

Annabel Nugent@annabelnugent
Tuesday 16 February 2021 10:26
Framing Britney Spears trailer

A recently released documentary has shone a spotlight on the Britney Spears’s long-standing conservatorship

Framing Britney Spears looks at the conflict over the legal arrangement that has allowed other people, most notably her father James (known as Jamie), control over Spears’s career, finances and personal life.

The high-profile case went back to court last week when Judge Brenda Penny overruled her father’s objections to an order establishing financial company, the Bessemer Trust, as co-conservator of Spears’s estate.

Currently, the musician’s father remains as her co-conservator, together with Bessemer Trust.

Spears’s next hearings over her conservatorship will take place on 17 March and 27 April.

Framing Britney Spears is available to watch on Sky Atlantic

What is the history of the conservatorship?

Spears, 38, remains under a legal conservatorship which renders the singer unable to make decisions concerning her personal life and career. A conservatorship is granted when a person is deemed unable to make their own decisions, typically because of mental incapacity.

In 2007, Spears divorced Kevin Federline, who won custody of their two children. In the highly-publicised case, Federline claimed that Spears had been behaving erratically and abusing substances. Photographs of Spears shaving her head and smashing the window of a paparazzo’s car were circulated widely.

In January 2008, Spears was involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital for a second time. Her father and an attorney named Andrew Wallet were then granted temporary conservatorship the following month, which later became permanent.

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For the past 12 years, Spears’s father and Wallet have controlled the singer’s assets. The agreement also includes being able to restrict Spears’s visitors, communicate with doctors about her treatment, and manage her $60m (£47m) fortune.

In 2008, Rolling Stone captured a recording in which Spears can be heard in the background saying, “I basically just want my life back… I want to be able to drive my car. I want to be able to live in my house by myself. I want to be able to say who’s going to be my security guard.”

That same year in an interview with MTV, Spears compared her circumstances to a jail sentence with no end.

Britney Spears asiste al anuncio de su residencia en Las Vegas, Nevada, el 18 de octubre de 2018

According to The New York Times, Spears’s conservators are required to submit detailed accounts of her purchases to the court, including minor charges below £3.

Her father reportedly also negotiates all of the singer’s business deals. However, the star’s court-appointed attorney, Stanton Stein, insisted that Spears is “always involved in every career and business decision, period”.

In March 2019, Wallet resigned from his role as co-conservator. Appealing for the lifting of Spears’s conservatorship, Wallet said: “Substantial detriment, irreparable harm and immediate danger will result to the conservatee and her estate if the relief requested herein is not granted on an ex parte basis.”

RELATED: Video of Craig Ferguson refusing to mock Britney Spears goes viral

Following that, Spears’s father, who in 2019 admitted that his relationship with his daughter has “always been strained”, filed a request in September to temporarily step down from his conservator role, citing his personal health.

A judge appointed “care manager” Jodi Montgomery as his temporary replacement.

What is the conservatorship situation as it stands now?

It was last summer that Spears’s court-appointed lawyer Samuel D Ingham III, said in a court filing for the first time that his client “strongly opposed” her father as conservator. It was requested that Montgomery be made permanent in her position as conservator and that the possibility for Spears to one day terminate her conservatorship remain open.

In November, a judge declined to remove her father as head of her estate, despite Ingham telling the court that the singer was “afraid” of Jamie and would not perform again while he remained her conservator. The financial company Bessemer Trust was, however, appointed as co-conservator, as per Spears’s request.

Montgomery’s temporary role as co-conservator has been extended until September of this year.

Britney Spears fotografiada en 2019

What is the  #FreeBritney movement?

Fans of the star are campaigning for the legal conservatorship to be lifted, or the singer at least be given the autonomy to hire her own lawyer.

According to a New York Times report, the hashtag #FreeBritney dates back to a 2009 fan site which disagreed with the legal agreement. The campaign gained momentum again when Spears checked into a mental health care facility in 2019.

In the wake ofFraming Britney’s debut, celebrities including Sarah Jessica Parker, Bette Midler and Miley Cyrus have voiced their support for the movement. 

RELATED: Justin Timberlake apologises to Britney Spears and Janet Jackson

While Spears has not directly referenced the #FreeBritney movement, the singer’s lawyer recently wrote in a court filing that she “welcomes and appreciates the informed support of her many fans”.

In a social media post shared on Tuesday (9 February), Spears appeared to indirectly comment on the documentary. The pop star wrote: “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!!!!’

Framing Britney Spears is available to watch in the UK on Now TV from 16 February.