When is an adult legally a child? When she’s Britney Spears, of course.
Once again, the hashtag “Free Britney” is trending on social media as fans insist that Britney is being held against her will under the conservatorship of her father, Jamie, and later a care manager named Jodi Montgomery. Under this legal protection, Britney has as much legal power to control her own life as a minor child.
Conservatorships are granted by a court when an adult is deemed to be incapable of making decisions about their own lives. Almost always, this is because of some form of mental incapacity. This most often happens in cases of elderly people suffering from dementia. Other examples include someone who is in a coma or who was born with a severe developmental disability.
Britney doesn’t fit into any of those categories, so why has her father been granted complete control of her life for the past ten years? People with severe mental illness can also be considered incapable of caring for themselves. If they pose a danger to themselves or others, and/or if they cannot provide for their own basic needs, then a conservatorship might be necessary for that person’s well-being.
It’s more common to have a short-term or temporary conservatorship, which lasts long enough to get the person help. The conservator may have control over the person’s finances, physical health and autonomy, or full authority over every aspect of their ward’s life.
Britney’s case is unusual in that she is under a full, permanent conservatorship. That includes her $60 million fortune, as well as decisions about her career. Jamie Spears and a lawyer named Andrew Wallet managed her conservatorship for almost a decade before Wallet abruptly quit last year. Jamie Spears, citing his own health concerns, ceded control to a care manager named Jodi Montgomery in late 2019.
We all saw Britney’s meltdown in 2007–the head shaving and the umbrella attack, and eventually the involuntary hospitalization. She clearly needed help–but the question her fans want answered is whether Britney still needs to be under a full conservatorship.
The singer herself has spoken out about the situation several times. In the early days of the conservatorship, she gave an interview stating, “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.”
Since then, we’ve heard conflicting stories about whether Britney is okay with the situation. She’s been in and out of court, and on a memorable occasion last year, child welfare officers investigated claims against Jamie Spears and his behavior toward his grandsons. Critics of the conservatorship point out that either Britney is profoundly unwell and should be allowed to heal in privacy… or she’s a megastar who can record new albums, world tours, and Vegas residencies. How is it possible to be both?
Fans also point to “coded messages” in Britney’s Instagram. One commentor told her to wear a yellow shirt in her next post if she needed help; another asked her to post a picture with doves. She did both. Was that truly a cry for help or a coincidence?
As for Jamie Spears, he thinks the #FreeBritney movement is nonsense. “All these conspiracy theorists don’t know anything. The world don’t have a clue,” he said. “It’s up to the court of California to decide what’s best for my daughter. It’s no one else’s business.”
A new hearing about the conservatorship is scheduled for August 22.