Can we stop pretending that Jamie Spears did Britney a favour by petitioning to end the conservatorship
Today a court will hear arguments for ending Britney Spears' conservatorship, a request made by her estranged father Jamie Spears. That's a good thing, right? Not really and here's why
In mid-September Jamie Spears officially did what we’ve all been waiting for his daughter to do. He legally petitioned to end her conservatorship. And it was met with… scepticism. Understandably.
Because Britney Spears’ father hasn’t exactly been the hero of this story. Orchestrating Britney’s career since 2008, he was head of both her personal and financial conservatorship before a bout of ill health forced him to step down from the latter. He’s controlled her income and estate and much of her life during that time, and she has been less than thrilled with his stewardship.
Without getting too bogged down in the details (there are lots of great articles giving the background to current events), here are the main points.
It has long been rumoured that Britney and her father didn’t have the strongest relationship. He was not an important presence in her early life or burgeoning pop career and in 2002, at the height of Britney’s fame, he and Britney’s mom Lynn filed for divorce. He even admitted himself in 2019 that his relationship with his daughter has always been “strained”. That is, until he was named sole conservator over Britney’s estate and person in 2008 and became very acquainted with the singer’s daily movements.
In the last few years, Jamie and the conservatorship has come under scrutiny, thanks to the efforts of the #FreeBritney movement and Britney, as well as her mother, have tried repeatedly to have him removed from the conservatorship to no avail. That is, until now.
Turn of the tide
In August 2021, Britney exercised her right to address the court and requested that she be able to hire her own lawyer. Judge Brenda Penny agreed and Britney brought in Mathew Rosengart, a powerful Hollywood attorney and a former federal prosecutor.
His first move was to resubmit her request to remove Jamie from the conservatorship, now backed by the public court comments of the conservatee herself. Things seemed to be looking like it might be granted as the judge was reviewing it.
Enter Jamie and his petition to end the conservatorship.
Maybe she enjoys the security that the conservatorship offers her once her father has been removed from it. Who knows, but it was her right to pull that trigger.
It’s important to note that filing for the end of conservatorship is one of the only rights Britney Spears has. She needs a judge’s permission to speak or request changes, such as a new lawyer, she needs financial agreement from the conservatorship to spend her own money. Christ, she even needs permission to get an IUD removed. But petitioning the end of the conservatorship is about the only legal right she retained as a conservatee.
And she hasn’t used it yet. There must be a reason for that. Perhaps she didn’t feel ready to shed it completely, perhaps she wanted more time to demonstrate to the court her ability to look after herself and her children. Remember, currently Kevin Federline retains full physical custody of their two sons, with Britney allowed visitation rights.
When you think about it, it makes sense that Britney didn’t want to rip the bandaid off too fast. She’s been living this way for 13 years. Anyone trying to surface from that would need time to adjust, time to find their feet and independence again. In court, she explicitly said she did not want to go through another evaluation in order to gain her freedom, it was too traumatic and she wanted to prove that she was capable on her own. Maybe she even enjoys the security that the conservatorship offers her once her father has been removed from it. Who knows, but it was her right to pull that trigger.
It’s one thing she could always do, and Mr Spears had the option of ending the conservatorship for the last 13 years. So why now?
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like a case of newfound empathy for his daughter. It’s about being backed into a corner.
With the limelight very much on him in terms of media coverage after Britney’s public statement and the petition to remove him from the conservatorship looking likely, he didn’t really have anywhere else to go.
So he decided to throw his last shot. Rather than leave his daughter with the one right left to her, he decided to pull the trigger himself, hoping it takes the heat off him.
He made murmurs about resigning as conservator that no one really bought, making promises without any real timeline and it’s said he requested $2 million from Britney’s estate and all his legal fees covered to step down.
If the petition for his removal were to proceed, however, he’d have to testify in court and under oath, how he tended to his daughter’s person and finances in his extensive time as her conservator. And if he gets booted from it entirely, then she can sue him for, oh I don’t know, emotional distress, financial mismanagement, fraud maybe.
So he decided to throw his last shot. Rather than leave his daughter with the one right left to her, the right to request an end to everything, he decided to pull the trigger himself, hoping it takes the heat off him.
The complexity of the request
In his request, Mr Spears clearly points the finger at Judge Penny, suggesting that if she thinks Britney is independent enough to hire her own lawyer, then she must think she’s ready to end the conservatorship without the need for a psychological evaluation. This is a tough ask for Judge Penny, and everyone knows it. She may not be willing to agree to it yet, which is probably why Britney herself hasn’t requested it.
And if the court rejects Jamie Spears’ request to end the conservatorship, it makes any future request a lot more difficult. That court will not only have to take on the complexities of a decades-long conservatorship but it will have to explain how the situation differs from when it was rejected the first time in order to rule in favour.
As Britney’s lawyer Mr Rosengart said in a statement following Jamie’s request, “It appears that Mr. Spears believes he can try to avoid accountability and justice, including sitting for a sworn deposition and answering other discovery under oath,” while also noting that Jamie had first sent the petition to media outlets before officially submitting it, clearly trying to turn a tide.
So let’s not pretend Jamie Spears did Britney a favour. If anything, the expedited nature now puts her at a distinct disadvantage.