LOS ANGELES - As legal battles continue over a conservatorship that popstar Britney Spears has lived under for more than a decade, fans from all over the world have rallied behind the singer, reigniting the #FreeBritney movement and asking that she be released from her conservatorship, which has long been run by her father, Jamie Spears.
The issue resurfaced in recent days after "Framing Britney Spears," a documentary by The New York Times, premiered on Hulu and FX. The film highlights the battle over Britney’s conservatorship — an arrangement that has allowed other people, including her father, to have control over her personal life and finances.
Kevin Federline, Spears’ ex-husband, has remained largely quiet on the conservatorship, but Mark Vincent Kaplan, Kevin Federline’s family attorney, told FOX Television Stations that the arrangement offers protections for Britney.
Kevin Federline and Britney Spears during Mariah Carey and Jermaine Dupri Host GRAMMY After Party Sponsored by LG at Private Home in Hollywood, Califormia, United States
"I think there are many different layers of protection for Britney Spears as a conservatee, and I don’t think anyone should be worried that in some way it’s being abused for persons who have control with a conflict of interest...," Kaplan said. "I don’t think that’s a valid — it’s a concern, but I don’t think it’s one that’s founded in actuality."
Britney Spears notches small victory in court, but conservatorship remains
On Thursday, the Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny overruled Jamie’s objections to an order establishing Bessemer Trust Co. as a co-conservator of daughter and pop singer Britney Spears’ estate, according to Variety.
Jamie’s attorney objected to the language of the proposed order, saying it improperly reduced his powers over his daughter’s estate. The judge denied those objections.
According to Variety, Ingham said the purpose of the order was to give both Britney’s father and Bessemer "an equal division of responsibility, in the hopes that they would sit down and figure out together the best way to handle this complex estate for the benefit of my client."
A large crowd of fans, many carrying brightly colored pink signs proclaiming support for Britney, was present outside the courthouse Thursday. The judge set another hearing for March 17 for updates on the progress made by Jamie and the Bessemer Trust Co.
Supporters of Britney Spears gather outside a courthouse in downtown for a #FreeBritney protest as a hearing regarding Spears' conservatorship is in session on August 19, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)
The "...Baby One More Time" singer was only 26 when she was placed under a conservatorship, but now, at 39, is still in it, despite being young, productive and active. But Kaplan said it’s "more being read into, her being a prisoner of that."
"Prior to the conservatorship being placed over Ms. Spears, her finances were in a terrible state of disarray, there were multiple lawsuits around for breaches of contract and things like that, and now based on what I’ve seen in the press, her estate is north of $50, $60 million, so from that standpoint it seems to me the conservatorship has benefited her financially in that regard," Kaplan said. "The tradeoff as far as how it impacts her personal freedom or creativity, I can’t speak on that."
In 2019, Britney canceled her Las Vegas residency and checked into a mental health facility after revealing that her father was sick. She has not performed live since 2018, and according to FOX 11 Los Angeles, her attorneys have said she won't do so again while her father controls her affairs.
Kaplan would not respond to whether Federline believes Britney should remain in a conservatorship or not, stating that Federline "expresses no opinion in that regard and has no desire to get involved on that side."
"The only thing he’s considered about is whether the existence of the conservatorship enhances the ability for the boys to be in a safe and structured environment when they’re with their mom, and we have no reason to believe that that isn’t a beneficial factor in that decision," Kaplan said.
Kaplan noted that Britney’s children are "doing really well, and Kevin is enjoying watching them grow into young men."
Under the current legal court order, it is a 70-30 split time share in favor of Federline. "However, they have modified that voluntarily between themselves, where Kevin has somewhat more than that at the present time," Kaplan added.
While Britney remains noticeably quiet on social media, she posted on Twitter this week after the release of the New York Times documentary, writing, "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!!!"
Britney also posted a video of herself performing her song "Toxic" three years ago, writing, "I'll always love being on stage .... but I am taking the time to learn and be a normal person .... I love simply enjoying the basics of every day life !!!!"
The basics of Britney Spears’ conservatorship
By legal definition, a conservatorship is a court case where a judge appoints a responsible person or organization to care for another adult who cannot care for himself or herself or manage his or her own finances.
Conservatorships are often instated for elder people and adults who cannot take care of themselves or their finances, but can also be for younger people who have been seriously impaired.
Thus, according to law experts, it is rare for Britney to be under a probate conservatorship, which means that her daily life, including her finances, have been overseen by her father.
Appointed conservators have control over everything from Britney’s mental health care, to where and when she can travel — and must submit detailed accounts of her purchases.
US singer Britney Spears arrives for the premiere of Sony Pictures' "Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood" at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California on July 22, 2019 ((Photo by VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images))
"I know there’s been turmoil seemingly with Britney and her father, and his role has changed somewhat, but that’s an internal matter between them," Kaplan said.
According to the California Courts, when a conservatorship is needed right away, the court may appoint a temporary conservator until a general conservator can be appointed.
"The court is going to make the decisions that are based on what’s best for the conservatee including whether or not it’s necessary and if so whether it continues or not," Kaplan explained.
Kaplan said if the conservatorship changed and was no longer in place, there would have to be further examination as to how custody of Britney Spears’ and Federline’s children would be exercised.
"We don’t have any reason to believe that the conservatorship — although it’s been called a temporary conservatorship for almost 10 years — is going not to be in place, but if it wasn’t in place, we would probably turn a more cautious eye to make sure that everything is stable and structured over there when the boys go see their mom," Kaplan said.
Timeline of legal events in the Britney Spears conservatorship
Jamie has been a co-conservator of his daughter since 2008 — after she suffered a widely-public mental-health crisis as a teenage pop star.
Britney's father stepped down from his role as her personal conservator in 2019 due to health issues and a professional conservator was temporarily put in his place, but he continues to control and manage her estate.
In September 2019, Jamie requested that Britney's care manager, Jodi Montgomery, replace him as the temporary conservator.
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - APRIL 12: Honoree Britney Spears attends the 29th Annual GLAAD Media Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on April 12, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. ((Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images))
"From where he [Federline] stands and his views, she’s doing an excellent job and it’s been very easy for him to be able to get things for the boys that are necessary and he has nothing but praise for Ms. Montgomery’s job so far," Kaplan said.
In July 2020, FOX News reported that Britney's brother Bryan was asked in a podcast about the latest drama surrounding her conservatorship. He explained that while it's a beneficial thing to have in place, Britney ultimately would like to get out of it.
"She's been in this thing for quite some time now. Obviously, there was a need for it in the beginning," Bryan said. "Now they've made some changes and all we can do is hope for the best!"
In August 2020, Britney’s legal team advocated to have Jodi remain as her personal conservator and have the Bessemer Trust Company be named the conservator of her estate. Then in December, the judge extended Montgomery's temporary role until September 2021.
In September 2020, Britney announced that she was ready to open up about her longstanding conservatorship case to the public, according to her attorney Samuel Ingham III.
In documents obtained by FOX TV Stations on Sept. 3, Britney's lawyer stated that the singer no longer wanted information on her conservatorship to remain sealed.
According to the opposing motion filed, Britney was against the effort by her father to "keep her legal struggle hidden away in the closet as a family secret," the opposition to motion to seal document stated.
The document also referenced an interview with the New York Post, where Britney’s father reportedly told the media that the #FreeBritney movement was a conspiracy theory or a "joke."
"All these conspiracy theorists don't know anything. The world don't have a clue," Jamie reportedly said. "It's up to the court of California to decide what's best for my daughter. It's no one else's business."
"Whatever merits his [Jamie’s] 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 fans," the document said.
But in November 2020, a judge ruled to keep Jamie as co-conservator of Britney’s estate, along with adding the Bessemer Trust Company. Meanwhile, the judge denied Britney’s request to remove her father entirely from the conservatorship.
Thus, both Jamie and the trust company are sharing the management of his daughter's business affairs.
Ingham, meanwhile, said his client would be happier without her father involved. "It's no small secret my client doesn't want her father as the co-conservator," Ingham said.
Britney Spears’ and Jamie Spears’ attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
FOX News and FOX Los Angeles contributed to this story.