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Britney Spears requests termination of her conservatorship: Its embarrassing and its demoralizing

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Britney Spears made a rare statement on her own behalf in a Los Angeles court hearing Wednesday, requesting that the conservatorship that has taken her finances and lifestyle out of her own control for more than a decade be terminated.

Spears, speaking quickly and at times breathlessly, told the judge she had been "traumatized" by the 13-year arrangement.

"I've told the world I'm happy and OK," she said, but went on to describe prescription drug therapy that had left her feeling drunk, as well as mandatory twice- and thrice-weekly therapy sessions held in places where the public could see her arriving and leaving, as opposed to in her home, as Spears had requested. Spears said she was told that if she didn't attend she wouldn't be allowed to go on vacation in Maui, and according to the singer, paparazzi captured photos of her crying as she left the office after sessions. "It's embarrassing, and it's demoralizing," she said. "I truly believe this conservatorship is abusive."

"I shouldn't be in a conservatorship if I can work," she said.

For now, the 39-year-old pop singer's bank accounts are still controlled by her father, Jamie Spears, 68, and the bank Bessemer Trust. Her day-to-day activities, meanwhile, are under the control of professional fiduciary Jodi Montgomery, who was appointed her conservator when her dad temporarily stepped down as such in 2019 due to health concerns.

In April, Spears's lawyer, Samuel Ingham, asked permission for the singer to address the court directly, a request granted by Judge Brenda Penny of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County.

A conservatorship is a legal arrangement that places a vulnerable individual under another person's authority to prevent them from being taken advantage of. But fans have argued that Spears is an apparently capable adult who has worked successfully as a musician during her conservatorship, an indication that it should end.

Spears has been under this arrangement since early 2008, when - in the wake of a highly publicized stretch of erratic behavior and two involuntary psychiatric holds - her then-estranged father was named co-conservator, alongside a lawyer. The arrangement was understood to be temporary at the outset, but soon became permanent.

While Spears initially made a few comments indicating her dissatisfaction, such as in the 2008 documentary "Britney: For the Record," she and those close to her went silent not long afterward, and have remained mum about it - mostly - for the past 13 years. The rare comment still escapes now and again: A year ago, Spears's brother, Bryan, disclosed on a podcast that his sister had "wanted to get out of it for quite some time."

Fans, however, created the online rallying cry #FreeBritney and the website FreeBritney.net in 2009. In recent years, they've protested at hearings, and a Change.org petition created in 2019 to ask the judge to investigate her conservatorship for abuse now has more than 150,000 signatures.

And in February, a New York Times documentary brought Spears back into the spotlight, igniting a reexamination of the harsh early-2000s media climate in which Spears came of age and boosting awareness of Spears's current predicament.

Details about Spears's life under conservatorship have since broken through to the public, despite Spears's and her family's reticence. In February, Spears's boyfriend, personal trainer Sam Asghari, had harsh words for Jamie on Instagram and later told "TMZ" that he hoped he and Jamie could be on good terms again once the latter "starts treating his daughter right."

Some took Asghari's comment as an indication that Spears wanted her father removed from his role in her conservatorship permanently, and details that emerged this week seem to confirm as much: Newly obtained court records, according to the New York Times, show that Spears wanted to discuss the possibility of her father's removal as her conservator as far back as 2014, and in 2016, she expressed to a court investigator that the conservatorship itself had become "an oppressive and controlling tool against her" and that the money she was earning as a musician was paying her conservators for supervision she didn't want.

In March, Spears's lawyer requested that Montgomery permanently assume the role of her conservator. On Wednesday, however, Spears said that even Montgomery had begun to go too far. As for her conservators, Spears said, "They need to be reminded they actually work for me."

After Spears was finished speaking, a lawyer for Montgomery spoke. "We certainly do have a different perspective on many of the issues and facts raised by Miss Spears," she said. "But I don't think today is the appropriate forum to air those out."

Published : June 24, 2021

By : The Washington Post · Ashley Fetters