By: Maya Arruda. Email: email@example.com.
Fans celebrate Britney’s freedom outside California courthouse
Everyone familiar with the iconic pop star behind hits such as “Womanizer” and “Toxic” has reason to celebrate. As of November 12, 2021, Britney Spears has been freed, permanently, from her father’s conservatorship. This marks a resurgence of freedom for the pop star from her father’s control after 13 long years.
A conservatorship was meant as a way for a family member to take legal ownership of another adult’s assets, including money and property, and were put in charge of the adult’s personal life in cases where said person is no longer fully capable of doing so on their own, whether mentally or physically. This pertains mostly to elderly folks who can physically no longer take care of themselves or the severely mentally ill, with conditions such as Altzheimer’s or Dementia. Anyone with a mental condition that interferes with decision making can be put under a conservatorship, which is the reasoning for Britney’s father, Jaime Spears, to place Britney under his conservatorship.
In 2008, Britney Spears was legally put under conservatorship in a court of law due to a series of mental breakdowns following her divorse with Kevin Federline and the following loss of custody of both her children in 2007. While the conservatorship was initially meant to be temporary, it became permanent later on in the year.
Under the conservatorship, Britney’s life was strictly controlled by her father to an unhealthy and abusive degree. The conservatorship gave Britney’s father legal dominion over all aspects of Britney’s life, encompassing her career and even her reproductive health. Her father made her perform against her will, cut off her access to her own money, controlled access to her own children, and prevented her from getting remarried and having more children- all exposed by Britney in a court hearing on June 23, 2021 regarding her conservatorship. In this court hearing, she said “I truly believe this conservatorship is abusive. I don’t feel like I can live a full life.” Understandably, her testimony during this open court hearing caused outrage from fans, giving more traction to the Free Britney Movement that started in 2019 after initial allegations regarding the abuse of power provided by the conservatorship wielded by Britney’s father, James Spears.
In February 2021, a documentary about Britney Spears and her portrayal in the media called Framing Britney Spears was released. This documentary was produced by the New York Times and highlighted her rise and fall from stardom, with a large focus on her conservatorship. This film raised awareness for Britney’s plight and increased the popularity of the Free Britney movement.
James’s response to this public outcry has been to maintain that he was acting within his legal rights as granted by the conservatorship, as stated by his at the time lawyer and representative Vivian Thoreen in September 2021. During the court hearing, the group of lawyers maintained the claim that her father’s actions were all done for her own benefit, to protect her and restore her career. Thankfully for Britney, a judge ruled in her favor at the Nov. 12 court hearing and formally dissolved the conservatorship, granting Britney back control over her money, her property, and most importantly- her freedom.
This debacle raises the question of whether conservatorships should be permitted in similar scenarios, especially in cases where the conservatorship is doing more harm than good. In Britney’s case, the control over her life granted to her father by the court negatively impacted her mental health when the only reason the conservatorship was legally granted was because of her poor mental health at the time impacting her decision making. In these sorts of cases, it is likely that a conservatorship only exacerbates the problem in a cruel and vicious cycle that harms the conservatee. If anything, the Britney conservatorship situation should serve as an example of the failures of the American justice system to recognize an unfit conservator, properly investigate the status of conservatorships, and respond quickly when confronted by evidence that proves misuse of power provided by a conservatorship.