A California judge on Friday dissolved Britney Spears’ conservatorship, bringing an end to the legal arrangement that put strict limits on her personal and financial freedoms for 13 years.
Spears was placed under a conservatorship in 2008 after a series of mental health episodes were captured by tabloid paparazzi who had hounded the singer, then a young mother of two.
The legal arrangement consisted of two parts, covering her finances and her person, including medical decisions.
Until this year, Spears rarely acknowledged that she was locked in an arrangement usually reserved for people with severe health problems and the incapacitated elderly.
For most of the conservatorship’s duration, her father, James “Jamie” Spears, was assigned as her conservator ― meaning he had the final say over her schedule, how often she could see her children, what vacations she took and even allegedly what she could have to eat or drink. According to one report, Jamie Spears’ control over his daughter’s life extended even to the color of her kitchen cabinets.
In court papers filed last week, Jamie Spears said he supported ending the conservatorship but defended its creation, saying it had been “necessary to protect Britney in every sense of the word” at a time when her “life was in shambles.”
The singer’s attorneys filed a 110-page document asking the court to depose her father in late October to unearth the full extent of how he exerted control over his celebrity daughter. A recent New York Times documentary alleged that the private security firm Jamie Spears hired to monitor his daughter’s movements and communications went so far as to set up audio recording in her bedroom ― a charge her father denies. His attorneys have consistently denied any wrongdoing over the course of the conservatorship.
This week’s pivotal decision by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny came less than five months after Britney Spears condemned the conservatorship in shocking terms during a hearing she had requested in order to address the judge directly.
While concerned fans had been critical of Spears’ conservatorship for several years, often using the hashtag #FreeBritney, the late June hearing was the first time Spears herself had spoken openly about the situation and confirmed their fears. She called the arrangement “abusive” and slammed her family and attorneys for their parts in it.
“I’ve told the world I’m happy and OK,” Spears said at the time. “I’m traumatized. I’m not happy. I can’t sleep.”
She was particularly disparaging of her father, saying the conservatorship “has allowed my dad to ruin my life.”
Since then, life has changed dramatically for Spears, who turns 40 on Dec. 2.
Penny allowed her to hire her own attorney for the first time, bringing entertainment lawyer Mathew Rosengart into the picture. Rosengart immediately pledged to do everything in his power to dissolve the conservatorship.
Jamie Spears initially pushed back on his daughter’s campaign for independence but eventually bowed to the mounting pressure. His attorneys filed a petition to dissolve the conservatorship in early September, although they maintain that Jamie has only ever had his daughter’s best interests at heart. By October, Penny had suspended Jamie Spears as conservator.
Attorneys for Britney Spears say that her father used his position to rake in millions for himself and people who managed her career. Jamie Spears and the singer’s mother, Lynn Spears, are still demanding that the court require their daughter to cover their enormous legal bills.
Britney Spears has begun to talk more about her life and her fractured relationship with her family since speaking her mind this summer.
She revealed in mid-September that she was engaged to Sam Asghari, the boyfriend of four years she met while he was a backup dancer for a music video she was filming. Spears had alleged in June that she wished to marry Asghari and have more children but that her conservators opposed the union and refused to take her to see a doctor to remove her birth control implant.
“Lord have mercy on my family’s souls if I ever do an interview!!!” Spears wrote on Instagram last month. She has periodically posted, and then sometimes deleted, criticisms of the conservatorship and her family members on the platform, where she counts some 36 million followers.