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Britney Spears' conservatorship, implemented in 2008, left her with no legal control over her estate or assets.
The rallying cries of the #FreeBritney movement were amplified by the 2021 documentary "Framing Britney Spears"
Spears succeeded in ending her conservatorship in November 2021.
Britney Spears didn't legally control her life and fortune for 13 years between 2008 and 2021.
The conservatorship — a legal guardianship typically enacted for those incapable of making their own decisions — was approved in the Los Angeles Superior Court in 2008 after Spears had several public breakdowns.
The arrangement put her estate, financial assets, and some personal assets under the control of her father and a lawyer.
On June 23, 2021, Spears officially asked the court to end her conservatorship in what was her most public statement on the subject at that point.
"It's my wish and my dream for all of this to end," she said of the conservatorship. "I just want my life back. The conservatorship should end. I truly believe this conservatorship is abusive."
From its implementation, the conservatorship generated a lot of controversy among Spears' fans. Some thought she was being controlled and manipulated, which fueled the #FreeBritney movement. In a 2020 court filing, Spears' lawyer wrote that the #FreeBritney movement is "far from being a conspiracy theory."
In November 2021, the conservatorship was finally ended following Spears' testimony and the #FreeBritney campaign.
Here is a breakdown of what happened.
In the late 2000s, Britney Spears had several public breakdowns.
During this time, Spears was spotted driving her SUV with her son Sean on her lap and not strapped in a car seat. She also famously shaved her head and was seen hitting a photographer's car with an umbrella.
This tumultuous period led to Spears' court-approved conservatorship, which was implemented in 2008.
Her father, Jamie Spears, petitioned for an emergency "temporary conservatorship" after Britney's second psychiatric hold in February 2008. The conservatorship was made permanent in October 2008.
A conservatorship is also known as a legal guardianship. It's granted to those who are incapable of making decisions, such as people with mental disabilities and those with dementia.
Under the conservatorship, Spears had no control over financial or personal decisions. That power was granted to her father, Jamie Spears, and her attorney, Andrew Wallet.
Jamie Spears was granted oversight of her estate and health, which involved everything from negotiating business opportunities to restricting visitors, while attorney Wallet was assigned to help manage her financial assets.
The exact details of the arrangement aren't known, but it was ruled that all of Spears' financial decisions had to be documented in court reports.
In 2018, Spears had a net worth of $59 million. That year, she spent $400,000 on living expenses and $66,000 on household supplies.
She also spent $1.1 million on her legal and conservator fees that year. Her father took home $128,000 of that, according to documents cited by Entertainment Tonight.
Spears remained incredibly active in her career during the time her conservatorship was implemented.
Until 2019, Spears dropped an album every two to three years.
She also had a four-year Las Vegas residency; her final performance grossed $1.1 million, the highest ever reported for a single theater Las Vegas residency show at that time, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
That's not to mention her "Piece of Me Tour" in 2018 grossed an estimated $54.6 million, according to Touring Data.
During this time, Spears also launched clothing and perfume lines, landed a luxury fashion campaign, and served as a judge on "The X Factor."
At the beginning of 2019, Spears took a step back from her career to check into a mental health facility, which prompted #FreeBritney supporters to express concern.
In early 2019, Spears put her Las Vegas residency, "Domination," on hold to focus on her mental health.
In April 2019, a fan podcast called "Britney's Gram" released a voicemail from an anonymous source who said he was a former paralegal involved with the conservatorship. The person said Spears was forced to go to the mental health facility. The podcast hosts told the Washington Post they verified the source's employment but didn't give specifics.
But a source close to Spears told CNN that she checked in to the mental health facility voluntarily to deal with the serious health issues her father was facing and because her medication stopped working.
Around this time, Spears' lawyer, Wallet, resigned as co-conservator but didn't give a reason for his resignation. This left her father, Jamie, as the sole conservator.
Wallet wrote in court filings the "conservatorship is engaged in numerous ongoing business activities requiring immediate attention" and that it was best he resign immediately, the Los Angeles Times reported.
One lawyer told the publication that his resignation could be a sign that Wallet disagreed with Spears' father on the conservatorship terms.
During a status hearing in May 2019, Spears reportedly asked the judge to consider ending the conservatorship.
A source close to Spears told CNN this was nothing new: "Of course she wants it to end, because she's not of the right mental state to understand her issues."
After the May hearing, Larry Rudolph, Spears' manager, said he wasn't "sure if or when she will ever want to work again."
In a second hearing in September 2019, Jamie asked to be temporarily removed as a conservator. The role was temporarily appointed to Britney Spears' care manager.
TMZ reported that Jamie Spears filed paperwork to temporarily step down as conservator so he could focus on his health.
However, the move came after Jamie Spears was accused of having an altercation with Spears' son Sean.
The singer's ex-husband and the father of her two children, Kevin Federline, filed a police report that led to a child abuse investigation. Charges weren't filed, but the children were granted a restraining order against Jamie Spears, reported People.
The judge allowed Jamie Spears to step down from his conservator role over his daughter's personal life but not her financial life. Jodi Montgomery, Britney Spears' "care manager," was appointed as temporary conservator of Britney's personal life at Jamie's request, according to People.
Spears' mother, Lynne Spears, made attempts in 2019 to get involved in the conservatorship.
Lynne Spears, who is divorced from Jamie, filed a legal motion in 2019 to be involved in the conservatorship process, saying she wanted to stay informed and have a say in her daughter's medical issues, CNN reported, citing court filings. She was present at Britney's court hearings that year, TMZ reported.
Spears' conservatorship was extended twice in early 2020.
In February 2020, an LA county judge extended Spears' conservatorship until April 30. Montgomery also remained a temporary conservator until that date, the International Business Times reported.
The court extended the conservatorship again until at least August 22, Entertainment Tonight reported in May that year. According to court documents obtained by ET, a hearing on the matter never took place due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The news came around the same time Spears posted a video to her Instagram revealing that she accidentally burned down her home gym after leaving candles lit.
In August 2020, Spears asked the courts for the removal of her father as sole conservator of her estate. Instead, the judge extended the conservatorship through February 1, 2021.
Spears wanted Montgomery, the temporary conservator who took over in September 2019, to take over as conservator permanently, TMZ reported, citing court documents filed by Spears' attorney, Samuel D. Ingham III.
Ingham stated in the court filings that Spears wants a "qualified corporate fiduciary" to manage the business affairs of her estate.
According to Us Weekly, which reviewed the court filings, the pop star said at the time that she was "strongly opposed to having [Jamie] return as the conservator of her person" and "strongly prefers" that Montgomery "continue in that role as [she] has done for nearly a year."
But after a hearing on August 19, 2020, Judge Brenda Penny of the Los Angeles County Superior Court in California said she would extend the current version of the conservatorship, not granting any of the changes Spears' lawyer requested in the filings, through February 1, 2021.
The same month, court documents revealed that Spears' sister, Jamie Lynn Spears, was secretly named a trustee.
Jamie Lynn was named a trustee on Spears' SJB Revocable Trust in 2018, court documents obtained by The Blast revealed. The trust was made for Spears' children.
Jamie Lynn was also in charge of distributing these assets to Spears' children in the event of her death, the Los Angeles Times reported.
According to the LA Times, Jamie Lynn requested that the court move the assets into Fidelity Brokerage Services accounts with her as the custodian. A judge would need to approve moving them back out.
In September 2020, Spears' attorney filed a request to open her future court hearings to the public, suggesting that Spears supported the #FreeBritney movement.
"Britney herself is vehemently opposed to this effort by her father to keep her legal struggle hidden away in the closet as a family secret," Ingham wrote at the time.
Ingham also said that the #FreeBritney movement was "far from being a conspiracy theory" and that the social media scrutiny over Jamie's attempts to keep court hearings private was "reasonable."
"Whatever merits his strategy might have had years ago when Britney was trying to restart her career, at this point in her life when she is trying to regain some measure of personal autonomy, Britney welcomes and appreciates the informed support of her many fans," he wrote.
Spears also argued against her father's petition to reinstate Wallet, her former lawyer, as co-conservator. Jamie Spears withdrew this petition in October 2020.
Jamie Spears asked the court to reappoint Wallet in August 2020, reported Vanity Fair.
Spears' attorney, Ingham, alleged that the petition was in retaliation to Spears' refusal to perform, which "will require [Jamie Spears] to undertake drastic changes to her budget."
Ingham argued that Wallet was "uniquely unsuitable" for the role, reported NME.
Wallet then told The Daily Mail that "people lurking in the shadows" are behind the #FreeBritney movement. "I can't say who but it is hurting Britney, she's the only one who gets hurt by all this," he said.
He also told the publication that "Britney is in a conservatorship for good reason but a lot of the Free Britney people have no experience with the law," adding that he thought it possible she would be under the conservatorship for the rest of her life.
A month later, Spears' attorney again asked the court to immediately remove her father as co-conservator after Spears learned her business manager had resigned. The court declined.
Ingham wrote in the court filing that "Britney and her estate will suffer loss and injury if James is not suspended immediately," asking that he be removed as soon as third-party financial company Bessemer Trust was appointed as co-conservator.
Spears learned through a letter from her father's lawyer that her longtime business manager, Lou Taylor, had resigned, reported Billboard. Her father had allegedly hired a new business manager, Michael Kane, without Spears knowing. Ingham said Spears wasn't informed about Kane's salary or employment terms, per Billboard.
He described the letter as a "blatant attempt by James to try to retain full functional control of her assets, books and records in the face of Britney's objections ..."
Jamie Spears' lawyer argued that, under the conservatorship, Spears has climbed out of debt to reach a net worth of $60 million, according to NBC News.
While Judge Penny appointed Bessemer Trust as a co-conservator after Spears was granted the right to expand her legal team the previous month, she didn't grant the request removal of Jamie Spears.
"My client has informed me that she is afraid of her father," Ingham later told Penny. "She will not perform again if her father is in charge of her career."
At the end of 2020, Spears' conservatorship was extended for the fourth time that year.
The conservatorship was extended until September 3, 2021, according to Entertainment Tonight. The court was supposed to review how Jamie handled his Spears' assets, but decided to continue the discussion the following year.
Jamie told CNN that same week that he hadn't spoken to Spears since August.
"I love my daughter and I miss her very much. When a family member needs special care and protection, families need to step up, as I have done for the last 12-plus years, to safeguard, protect and continue to love Britney unconditionally," he said.
"I have and will continue to provide unwavering love and fierce protection against those with self-serving interests and those who seek to harm her or my family."
In February 2021, The New York Times released a Hulu titled "Framing Britney Spears," highlighting the star's conservatorship and court battle with her father. It received widespread attention.
The documentary featured interviews with one of Spears' lifelong family friends, the marketing executive "who originally created Spears' image," and two lawyers who have worked with Spears, according to The New York Times.
Spears' heavily scrutinized career and personal life sparked a #FreeBritney frenzy among celebrities, fans, and Spears' loved ones alike. Miley Cyrus, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Andy Cohen all vocalized their support for Spears after the documentary was released.
Fans lashed out at both Spears' ex, Justin Timberlake, for his past treatment of Spears and Diane Sawyer, for displaying "casual misogyny" in a previous interview with Spears in light of the documentary.
"Now it's important for people to understand that I have zero respect for someone trying to control our relationship and constantly throwing obstacles our way," he wrote in an Instagram story. "In my opinion Jamie is a total dick."
Timberlake issued an apology to Spears via Instagram. "I am deeply sorry for the times in my life where my actions contributed to the problem, where I spoke out of turn, and or did not speak up for what was right," he wrote.
Spears herself seemed to indirectly acknowledge the episode's premiere and fans' response to it.
"I love simply enjoying the basics of every day life," she wrote in an Instagram post a few days after the premiere.
"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."
Less than a week after the documentary's premiere, Spears had her first conservatorship hearing of 2021. The court rejected her father's objection to sharing control of her estate and investments.
Jamie had objected to the proposed co-conservatorship with Bessemer Trust, "saying it improperly reduced his powers over his daughter's estate." But Judge Penny overruled these objections, Variety reported.
That resulted in both Jamie and Bessemer Trust being Spears' co-conservators moving forward.
But Ingham said Spears still wanted her father removed from the conservatorship entirely.
Following Judge Penny's denial of Jamie's objections, Ingham told the courtroom, "It's no secret that my client does not want her father as co-conservator."
"But we recognize that removal is a separate issue," he added.
In June 2021, The New York Times obtained court documents that revealed Spears opposed the conservatorship often and earlier than the public knew.
"She articulated she feels the conservatorship has become an oppressive and controlling tool against her," a court investigator wrote in a 2016 report, according to the New York Times.
According to the investigator's account of the conversation, Spears had said the system had "too much control" and wanted the conservatorship terminated as soon as possible.
Per the court records, the conservatorship dictated everything from who she dated to her kitchen cabinet color. She told the court in 2019 that she felt forced to stay at a mental health facility and to perform against her will, the Times reported.
Spears also wanted to remove her father, Jamie, as conservator, per the documents. Her attorney had told the court Spears cited Jamie's drinking, among several other objections, on a "shopping list" of grievances.
Spears formally asked the court in June 2021 to end her conservatorship.
"It's my wish and my dream for all of this to end," Spears said of the conservatorship during her testimony. "I just want my life back. The conservatorship should end. I truly believe this conservatorship is abusive."
"The people who did this, shouldn't be able to walk away," Spears said during her testimony, per Consequence.
Of her father, she added that he "loved the control he had over me, one hundred thousand percent."
Following her testimony, Bessemer Trust, the co-conservators of her estate, asked to resign. The request was granted in early July 2021.
Spears gave a passionate second testimony to the court a month later in July 2021.
During a Los Angeles court hearing on July 14, 2021, Spears spoke out against the conservatorship again.
"It's not just abuse, it's fucking cruelty," Spears said. "I am angry, and I will go there."
"I want you to understand how much of my time they've wasted with these stupid check-ups," Spears said.
"I am not perfect, but their goal has been to make me feel like I am crazy, and I am not," Spears told the courtroom.
Spears said the conservatorship had allowed Jamie to "ruin her life," and said: "He needs to be removed today."
In September 2021, a judge granted Spears' request to suspend her father from her conservatorship. He was replaced by John Zabel.
After Spears was finally allowed to choose her own lawyer in her conservatorship battle in July, she got a win in November 2021.
Spears' courtroom representative Mathew Rosengart advocated for Jamie Spears' immediate suspension and replacement by John Zabel, a California-based consultant, which was officially granted on September 29, 2021.
Jamie was suspended as the conservator of his daughter's financial estate. That position was temporarily taken over by John Zabel, a California-based consultant.
Jodi Montgomery remained the conservator tasked with overseeing Britney's personal affairs.
A Los Angeles judge decided to grant her request for the termination of the 13-year conservatorship less than two months later.
On November 12, 2021, a Los Angeles judge granted the termination of Spears' 13-year conservatorship.
"Effective today, the conservatorship of the person and estate of Britney Spears is terminated," Judge Brenda Penny said during the hearing, which Insider attended.
Penny's decision came after Spears and both her parents, Jamie and Lynne, filed petitions in support of the dissolution of the conservatorship.
In her judgment, Penny added that there "was no need for a capacity statement from Britney Spears."
"Good God I love my fans so much it's crazy 🥺❤️ !!! I think I'm gonna cry the rest of the day !!!! Best day ever … praise the Lord … can I get an Amen 🙏🏼☀️🙌🏼 ???? #FreedBritney," Spears tweeted the same day.
This story was originally published on December 8, 2020, and most recently updated on October 23, 2023.
Read the original article on Insider