Britney Spears’ father Jamie Spears has been suspended as conservator of her estate after 13 years, during the latest court hearing in the long-running dispute.
The judge in Los Angeles said it was in Spears‘ “best interests” to remove her father from the legal agreement, adding that the “current situation is untenable” and “reflects a toxic environment”. A hearing on whether to terminate the conservatorship entirely has also been set for later in the year.
The decision is a huge victory for the star, who spoke out against her father during dramatic court hearings in June and July, claiming she had been medicated against her will and denied the right to have children.
Her lawyer, Mathew Rosengart, has pushed for an investigation into the conduct of those who have administered the conservatorship, which has been in place since 2008, after Spears, now 39, was said to have suffered a mental breakdown. Known as a guardianship in many US states, the legal arrangement is normally a temporary measure for people with diminished ability who struggle to make decisions for themselves.
Jamie Spears had been the conservatorship’s main controller for most of that time. In 2019, he stepped aside as conservator of Spears’ person, with control over her life decisions, but remained in charge of her $60 million (about £44.7 million) estate – and her finances.
However, following his daughter’s bombshell evidence earlier in the year, he finally conceded and had asked Judge Brenda Penny to end the conservatorship before the hearing on Wednesday.
Following the hearing, Spears did not directly address the judge’s decision – but told her 34.3 million Instagram followers that she was “on cloud 9” in a cryptic message shared alongside footage of herself apparently flying a small plane.
Hours before the court session, a major street nearby was closed off to vehicles, and dozens of the star’s supporters from the #FreeBritney movement rallied and waved placards outside the building. There were cheers from fans as news of the ruling was conveyed.
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Spears and Mr Rosengart had emphasised the importance of removing her father in court papers, calling it a necessary first step toward her freedom and “ending the Kafkaesque nightmare imposed upon her”.
Mr Rosengart claimed in another filing earlier this week that Mr Spears “crossed unfathomable lines” by engaging in illegal surveillance of his daughter, including communications with her lawyer. It came after the allegations were made in the new Controlling Britney Spears documentary from The New York Times – a follow-up to Framing Britney Spears, released early in 2021.
Earlier in September, Spears announced her engagement to her long-term boyfriend, Sam Asghari – which means putting together a prenuptial agreement that her father should not be involved in, her court filings said. In her statements given to the court in the summer, she said she had not been allowed to get married and have children under the conservatorship.
Following the judge’s decision, Asghari shared a picture of a lioness on his Instagram account, along with the caption: “The power of the lioness!!!!! #freebritney.” In his Instagram Stories, he shared a picture appearing to show the couple’s hands, and Spears’ engagement ring.
Cher, who has been a vocal supporter of the #FreeBritney movement, was among those celebrating the news on social media, saying she was “thrilled” for Spears.
I’ve Talked & 🙏🏻🙏🏻‘d About This 4 YEARS👏🏼.
IM MORE THAN THRILLED 4 HER🎂‼️
BLESS OUR SUPER 🌟#FREEBRITNEY
— Cher (@cher) September 29, 2021
Jamie Spears has always denied acting in anything other than his daughter’s best interests. He has said in court papers that he does not know of “a single medical professional nor the report of a single probate investigator” that concluded that his presence as conservator was harming his daughter or that he should be replaced.
His lawyers had argued there was no need for him to step down because all sides had agreed the contentious arrangement should end.
Despite giving evidence earlier in the year, Spears did not take part in Wednesday’s hearing. She was represented by Mr Rosengart – who said it would take time to wind down the conservatorship entirely.
Mr Spears’ lawyer Vivian Thoreen had argued for immediate termination of the conservatorship. However, Mr Rosengart said that would only shield the star’s father from investigations into his conduct over the past 13 years.
Spears catapulted to worldwide fame as a teenager, with the release of her very first single …Baby One More Time in 1998. After topping charts around the world with her debut, she followed it with more hits including Oops!… I Did It Again, I’m A Slave 4 U, Toxic, Womanizer and Piece Of Me.
The fight to end the conservatorship has been a long one for the singer, who said through her legal team in November 2020 that she would not perform live again while her father was still in control. She has not been seen on stage since 2018 and had remained largely silent on her legal fight until giving evidence in open court for the first time in June.
Following that hearing, the star posted a message on Instagram to apologise to fans for “pretending like I’ve been ok” about the conservatorship.
Now, the suspension of her father from the agreement means Spears has taken a major step towards it potentially ending for good – with the court hearing on ending the arrangement set to take place on 12 November.