Stronger than Yesterday: The Fall of Britney Spears’ Conservatorship
Britney Spears has long been a household name, reaching superstardom in the early 2000s in ways that few others had at the time. Today, she remains one of the biggest Hollywood celebrities, but the spotlight is less on her music and more on an ongoing legal battle. In 2008, Britney reportedly experienced mental health struggles, leading to a rather unusual solution: her father taking over control of her person and finances via a legal mechanism called a ‘conservatorship’.
In California (where the popstar resides), 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”. Probate conservatorships are typically used for elderly people or adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities. In 2008, Britney Spears was placed into the care of her father, Jamie Spears, on a temporary conservatorship. Later that year, the arrangement was made permanent, meaning Britney Spears’ father (and an attorney, Andrew Wallet) have been in control of her person and finances for more than a decade. Despite the fact that such control over Britney’s life was granted due to her supposed inability to care for herself, she has been actively working for the vast majority of the conservatorship period. In addition to putting out records, going on multiple tours, and maintaining a Las Vegas residency, Spears was on the Forbes list of top paid celebrities in 2012. She has not had access to this money, or anything relating to her finances, since the onset of the arrangement.
The specifics of Britney Spears’ conservatorship had not been widely reported on to the public until relatively recently, in large part thanks to the the rise of the #FreeBritney movement in April 2019. This movement began to grow when the podcast Britney’s Gram reported on an anonymous voicemail alleging serious concerns with the nature of the conservatorship. This included Jamie Spears cancelling Britney’s second Vegas residency due to her alleged refusal to take medication. From there, fans organized around ending this arrangement, protesting and bringing enormous media attention to the situation. In fact, multiple documentaries on the topic have been produced and released in the last two years, including Framing Britney Spears and, more recently, Netflix’s Britney vs Spears. The media reporting has undoubtedly brought attention to something the singer has had to deal with over the last 13 years, but one can’t help but notice parallels between the relentless exploitation by the media of her mental health struggles in the early 2000s and her challenges in the conservatorship today. None of this is lost on Britney, though, who has called the media out on her Instagram account.
Britney Spears has had some significant legal wins related to her case in the last two years. Britney addressed the court in June 2021, detailing her trauma and calling for the end of the arrangement. In her statement, Britney recounted being forced to work, not being allowed to see a doctor to remove her contraceptive device, and being monitored around the clock. More recently, Britney was able to select her own attorney for the first time, and Jamie Spears has been suspended as her conservator. Interestingly, Mr. Spears has called for the end of the conservatorship arrangement altogether, but Britney has pushed back on this, requesting an investigation of her father’s alleged conservatorship abuse over the last 13 years. Looking forward, there is a hearing on November 12th regarding the termination of the conservatorship. Until then, #FreeBritney.