Britney Spears has made clear how frustrated she is with the legal arrangement that has controlled her life for 13 years, but the singer will need patience before finding freedom.
Legal experts say that wanting out of a court-appointed conservatorship is easier said than done. Spears, now 39, will have to convince the judge that she is capable of managing her personal affairs and assets worth around $60 million, according to court documents.
“Once a person is under a conservatorship it’s difficult to get out of it because the court does not want to remove those protections only to have the conservatee taken advantage of,” said Los Angeles-based family lawyer Christopher Melcher.
“They would have to demonstrate that it’s no longer necessary,” Melcher added.
In emotional and angry remarks to the judge overseeing her case, Spears on Wednesday described the conservatorship as abusive, stupid, embarrassing and demoralizing.
The “Piece of Me” singer begged for the arrangement to be ended without having to undergo more psychological testing.
“I don’t want to be evaluated, to be sat in a room with people four hours a day like they did to me before,” she said. “If I can work and provide money and work for myself and pay other people – it makes no sense.”
On Thursday, Spears apologized to fans via an Instagram post for “pretending like I’ve been OK the past two years.”
“I did it because of my pride and I was embarrassed to share what happened to me,” she wrote.
The conservatorship began in 2008 when Spears suffered a mental health breakdown. The nature of her mental illness has never been disclosed. A year later she made a comeback, released new albums and performed live for 10 years until late 2018.
Judge Brenda Penny praised Spears for her courage in speaking out but said on Wednesday that Spears needs to submit a petition to the court requesting the termination of the conservatorship before any next steps could be taken. No new dates were set.
Under the terms of conservatorships in California, the judge would usually send a court-appointed investigator to speak with Spears and other interested parties, including the singer’s parents Jamie and Lynne Spears, her care manager and the financial institution that manages her business affairs. The judge would make the final decision.
“Everybody thinks that you simply walk into court with your case and the judge is going to hear me and the judge is going to understand that what I want is what is right, and they’re going to give that to me. And it simply doesn’t work that way,” said Scott Rahn, an attorney with expertise in trusts and conservatorships.
“It has to be warranted,” Rahn added.
Spears may have more luck winning a loosening of some of the restrictions she now faces. She mentioned wanting to choose her own attorney, marry and have another baby, have her nails and hair done, and have a therapist come to her rather than vice versa.
Lisa MacCarley, a probate and conservatorship lawyer who supports the #FreeBritney movement, said Spears had been “treated shabbily” under the conservatorship.
“Britney Spears needs to get into an office of a competent and independent legal adviser and weigh her options,” MacCarley said.
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant, Lisa Richwine and Rollo Ross; editing by Jane Wardell and Chris Reese)
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