Britney Spears’s private life has been on display ever since she burst on the scene back in the late ’90s with “…Baby One More Time.” It seems that every few months, new questions arise about the conservatorship the pop icon has been under since 2008 (initially with her father, Jamie Spears, in charge), with some fans even starting a #FreeBritney campaign.
But what, exactly, does a conservatorship mean, and what does the Spears family have to say about it? Let’s break it all down.
According to the Judicial Branch of California’s official website, 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.”
In February 2008, Britney Spears was put under a temporary psychiatric hold in Los Angeles, where she was treated at a UCLA facility. Following those measures, her father and an attorney were granted a temporary—then permanent (in October 2008)—conservatorship over her assets, estate, and business affairs.
The order has been in place ever since, though Jamie stepped down as a conservator in September 2019 due to “personal health reasons,” with Britney’s longtime “care manager,” Jodi Montgomery, taking his place.
In August 2020, People obtained new court documents that show Britney is “strongly opposed” to Jamie’s returning as conservator and instead “strongly prefers” that Montgomery continue in the role. “We are now at a point where the conservatorship must be changed substantially in order to reflect the major changes in her current lifestyle and her stated wishes,” Britney’s court-appointed attorney, Samuel D. Ingham III, says in the filing, according to the outlet.
As of November 4 that year, Britney filed an official motion to permanently remove her father as a co-conservator of her estate, per Us Weekly. Her lawyer reportedly requested that Bessemer Trust Company be the sole conservator moving forward.
“It is now obvious that any effort to create a viable working relationship between and among BRITNEY, BESSEMER TRUST and JAMES would be doomed to failure even without the added stress of litigating BRITNEY’S objections to the Account,” her lawyer reportedly wrote in the court document.
On November 10 a judge denied Britney’s request to remove her father from her conservatorship. “That’s the subject of another discussion down the road,” Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny said, according to CBS. Samuel Ingham III, Britney’s lawyer, said the singer has told him “on many occasions” she’s afraid of Jamie and doesn’t want to perform professionally while he’s in his current role.
On February 11, 2021, probate Judge Brenda Penny upheld the partnership between Jamie Spears and Bessemer Trust, rejecting the elder Spears’s petition to grant him sole control over his daughter’s estate, which Ms. Spears evidently does not want. After the decision Britney’s lawyer, Samuel Ingham, told the press, “It’s no secret that my client does not want her father as co-conservator, but we recognize that removal is a separate issue.” So this is, at least, not a step backward.
However, after Britney’s explosive testimony against the conservatorship in late June (more on that below), Bessemer Trust has removed itself from the equation.
There is a certain segment of the internet that’s become convinced Britney is sending secret messages to fans asking for help. It really gained steam back in 2019 but seems to pop back up again every few months, especially when Brit is active on social media. The gist is that fans think Britney wants out of the conservatorship, and they’ve started a movement, #FreeBritney, to support her. For a really deep dive on the movement, click here.