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What’s Going On With Britney’s Conservatorship?

It’s Britney, bitch. Photo: Image Group LA/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

On June 23, Britney Spears told a Los Angeles probate court how she really feels about the conservatorship that’s ruled her life for the past 13 years. In her own words, she’s “done” with the “abusive” arrangement that has granted her father and various attorneys full control over her finances, her career, and her person since 2008 — even as her albums, world tours, TV gigs, and performances keep these legal guardians on her payroll. The contradiction is not lost on Britney, who argued that it “makes no sense” for her to “make a living for so many people” who in turn decide how she gets to live.

“I just want my life back,” she told California Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny. “All I want is to own my money, for this to end, and my boyfriend to drive me in his fucking car.”

Though the conservatorship itself remains in place, certain key players have abdicated their roles in the aftermath of Britney’s explosive statement. Most recently, Judge Penny officially suspended Britney’s father, Jamie Spears, from his role as conservator. As we await a hearing to potentially terminate the conservatorship altogether, here’s a guide to who’s involved and what happens next:

Britney’s father

Jamie Spears assumed the role of financial and personal conservator when he enacted the guardianship in 2008. Though he relinquished control of Britney’s personal life to Jodi Montgomery — a licensed, private fiduciary appointed as conservator of Britney’s persontwo years ago, he remained in charge of her finances until he was suspended on September 29.

The singer has painted her father as a driving force behind her misery, informing the court in July: “I want to press charges against my father today.” As conservatorship attorney Tamar Arminak explained to Vulture, his sustained involvement felt especially odd after Britney had plainly stated how she feels about him. Jamie lacks “any kind of financial knowledge or specialty,” but his services cost Britney a total of $18,000 per month. In the media, Jamie has been cast as an aggressive stage parent constantly leveraging his daughter’s talent for personal gain — “I am Britney Spears!” he reportedly bellowed during an early conservatorship meeting — a charge he denies. And this summer, amid escalating calls for his removal from the case, Jamie’s position remained slippery.

On June 29, he requested that Penny open an investigation into the “serious allegations” raised in his daughter’s testimony that month — presumably including the assertion that he had forced her into a labor situation that she compared to “trafficking.” On August 6, Jamie filed court documents alleging that Montgomery told him Britney is “mentally sick” and needs to be put on a 5150 psychiatric hold. (Montgomery characterized this as an extreme misrepresentation of her words.) Then, one week later, Jamie made what looked, on the surface, like a significant concession: In a court filing from August 12, his attorney said the singer’s father intended to resign “when the time is right.” Emphasizing that Jamie does not believe any valid grounds exist for his removal, the filing granted that he would resign if the transition was “orderly.” Earlier this month, Britney’s new attorney, Mathew Rosengart, accused Jamie of trying to “extort” $2 million from his daughter in exchange for his departure.

All of which is to say, his request to end the conservatorship altogether — and without making Britney undergo another psychiatric evaluation — came as a huge surprise. In a court filing from September 7, Jamie acknowledged many of the points Britney has aired over recent months, concluding that she “is entitled to have this Court now seriously consider whether this conservatorship is no longer required.”

On September 29, Judge Penny ruled to suspend Jamie from his role as conservator, marking a huge step toward Britney’s freedom. “The current situation is not tenable,” the judge ruled, per he New York Times. Despite having recently petitioned to end his daughter’s conservatorship, Jamie was still unpleased by the outcome of the hearing. His attorney, Vivian L. Thoreen, said the decision was “disappointing, and frankly, a loss for Britney” also claiming it was “wrong” for Judge Penny to suspend Jamie.

Britney’s legal counsel

On July 6, Britney’s court-appointed attorney — Samuel D. Ingham III, who has represented her since the conservatorship was put into place — filed a petition to resign. The move seemed in line with his client’s stated wish to choose her own attorney, but her testimony also raised questions about who Ingham really served. Britney told Judge Penny that she “didn’t know [she] could petition the conservatorship to be ended” until relatively recently, and that Ingham discouraged her from speaking out sooner. Then, the New York Times reported that Ingham’s advocacy for Britney seemed spotty at best — suspicious, considering the $3 million he has made off her case since 2008. On July 14, Judge Penny approved his resignation.

On July 10, TMZ reported that the pop star had filed legal documents expressing her “desire to choose and retain [her] own counsel, at Greenberg, Traurig, LLP,” specifically Mathew Rosengart. A former federal prosecutor and one of the Hollywood Reporter’s top 100 “power lawyers” for 2021, Rosengart has a long list of celebrity clients, including but not limited to Ben Affleck, Steven Spielberg, Sean Penn, and Winona Ryder. On July 14, Rosengart appeared in court, where Judge Penny approved his appointment. His first order of business: Calling on Britney’s father to resign. “We will be moving promptly and aggressively for his removal,” Rosengart said at the time.

Britney’s professional conservators

On July 1, Bessemer Trust — a private wealth-management firm that, along with her dad, Jamie Spears, oversaw Britney’s finances — also asked to exit the arrangement “immediately.” The request came days after Bessemer’s official appointment as co-conservator, and it cited “changed circumstances”: Jeff Glowacki, a managing director at the bank, said that when Ingham asked Bessemer to come onboard, he described the conservatorship as “voluntary.” After hearing otherwise from Britney, Bessemer back out. On July 14, Judge Penny granted that request as well.

Meanwhile, Montgomery has insisted (through her attorney) that she “has been a tireless advocate for Britney and for her well-being,” and “unlike family members who serve as conservators, is required to follow a Code of Ethics.” Montgomery denied blocking Britney from getting married and having more children, an accusation the pop star leveled against her conservators in court in June. She wants to stay on as conservator for now, and she has also requested security detail, citing the high volume of threats she says she’s received since Britney’s June court date.

Britney’s mother

Another family member who has opinions on the conservatorship: Lynne Spears, Britney’s mom. Lynne says she’s been involved in the conservatorship since May 2019, stepping in during what she called a “time of crisis” when Jamie forced Britney to enter medical treatment. In July court documents obtained by Entertainment Tonight, she indicated that the conservatorship had not served Britney’s “best interests.”

On July 6, Lynne filed a petition asking Judge Penny to authorize her daughter’s immediate “appointment of independent counsel,” arguing that “[Britney] can care for her person” now. She has earned “literally hundreds of millions of dollars as an international celebrity,” the filing noted, and “her capacity is certainly different today than it was in 2008.”

Lynne also backed Britney’s request to remove Jamie from the conservatorship. In a signed declaration submitted to the court on July 22, Lynne said Jamie has maintained “absolute control over [Britney’s] money and her health-care decisions,” noting that the relationship between Britney and her father has “dwindled to nothing but fear and hatred.” According to Lynne, Jamie has kept Britney under close scrutiny, even asking household staff and security detail “to inform on and report back to him each and every detail of every action that takes place in [Britney’s] home.”

She also echoed Britney’s claim that Jamie encouraged Britney to submit herself to a medical facility “against her wishes” and “was threatened with punishment if she did not stay for medical treatment that she did not want to endure.” She went on to describe Jamie’s control over their daughter as “exhausting and terrifying,” saying that Britney was subject to Jamie’s “constant threats and his decision-making over all aspects of her life.”

In the August 12 court filings, Jamie continued to hit back. More than half of Jamie’s 13-page court filing was spent targeting his ex-wife.

What happens next?

A hearing is set for November 12 to determine whether the conservatorship should be terminated altogether. In the interim, Mathew Rosengart’s proposed replacement as conservator of Britney’s finances — John Zabel, a certified public accountant — will take over Jamie’s role.

Additionally, Jamie’s behavior while acting as conservator has come under further scrutiny, thanks to new documentaries on the conservatorship. Controlling Britney Spears, a follow-up to the investigation the New York Times and FX dropped in February, delves into the elaborate surveillance machine Jamie allegedly architected to monitor his daughter, claims Rosengart believes merit serious investigation. During the September 29 hearing, Rosengart reiterated that belief, describing the choice to “eavesdrop on her most intimate communications with children, boyfriend, and lawyer” as “unfathomable,” according to one reporter who attended the hearing.

A second hearing date was set for December 8 to resolve the outstanding financial matters, which includes over a million dollars in legal fees that have been billed to Britney’s estate.

This article has been updated.

What’s Going On With Britney’s Conservatorship?