Britney Spears’ Conservatorship Explained

[Source: 60 Minutes Australia]

Celebrity Divorce Lawyer Christopher C. Melcher explains Britney Spears’ Conservatorship on 60 Minutes.

At the height of Britney Spears‘ fame, exclusive paparazzi shots of the pop star sold for up to a million dollars each. With ridiculous money like that, it’s little wonder she became the most hunted celebrity on the planet. It’s also not surprising, the never-ending attention crippled her.

In 2008, Britney’s erratic behavior and tumultuous personal life led to a very controversial court order giving her father complete control of her finances and life. 13 years on the conservatorship, as it’s called, is still in place. But it seems Britney, who turns 40 this year, now wants her father to back off, as do her many fans. Who has started a movement to set her free.

There’s so much good to tell about the Pop Princess, but also just as much that scandalous disturbing and downright heartbreaking. Looking back on her life so far, even Brittany herself would admit the truth of that old saying, be careful what you wish for.

She was growing up while she was becoming a big star. That’s an incredible burden and an incredibly difficult environment to grow up in.  And one that eventually would break her. She ultimately became exhausted.  All she did Carl, was grow up the same way that all of us did. The only thing that’s different is hers was on a stage for the world to judge her.

As an entertainer, there are few better than Britney Spears, but as a human, she’s being well, all too human. Unlike the rest of us though. Every mistake Brittany’s ever made has been recorded in an explosion of flashes and sensational headlines. Britney was literally the lab rat of pop culture. And the horrific thing that we as vultures do to people in the public eye.

The rise and inevitable fall of Britney Spears is a cautionary tale The New York Times has now turned into a must-see documentary.

Britney is in the midst of a legal battle right now. Her dad has been in charge of her money for the last 12 years.

It focuses on the saga of how Britney became a prisoner in her own life. The business of Britney Spears has become this very guarded universe.

She said, “I don’t want my father to be the conservator”. And the campaign now underway to free her.

It’s a long way from when the world was first introduced to Britney Spears. She started singing in church when she was a little kid, and she went on her first kind of amateur contest, if you will, on Star Search, which was a national TV show when she was eight years old. Was she pushed into it at all? Or did she want to do it herself?

I think she wanted to do it herself.  In the beginning, there was no one sweeter than Britney Spears. Full of life and talent for song and dance. Kim Cayman was the record exec who carefully guided the teenager along the road to hit records. It’s one thing to want desperately to be a star. It’s another thing when you become it, was that transition incredibly difficult for her?

I don’t think that it was a hard transition to become a star. I think she really enjoyed it. I think unfortunately she became a big, big star at a time in a young woman’s life where they really need a little bit of parental or adult guidance and help.

Kim says early on in their daughter’s career, Lynn and Jamie Spears mostly stayed in the background. Although she remembers one conversation with Britney’s dad, which struck her as strange We were at a show backstage and he just turned to me and he said, “my daughter’s going to make me so rich. She’s going to buy me a boat.”

Showbiz success has always been a magnet for the paparazzi. And so when Britney found fame, she inherited an entourage. She was followed and photographed everywhere she went. At first, she welcomed the attention, but understandably, it soon became overbearing and embarrassing. Every time she slipped up, the world knew about it. And what happened was America’s sweetheart became the hunted.

The end of her relationship with Justin Timberlake was headline news.  As well as a 55-hour marriage to Jason Alexander. Despite how romantic this setting truly is, there are reports that the marriage is already on the rocks. The partying was frowned upon and her parenting questioned.

In many ways, it wasn’t if Britney Spears would crack, it was when.

This young woman went from being absolutely loved and adored to being hated, and for there to be this mother of all pylons. What happened to Britney? She just buckled from the pressure.

Forget her music. The entertainment was watching Britney Spears self-destruct. In 2008, distressed over a custody battle with ex-husband Kevin Federline. She was hospitalized twice. Earlier today, Britney Spears was taken to the hospital for the second time this month.

Things were so dire, it forced her father Jamie out of the shadows in a drastic move. He convinced the court to place a conservatorship over his adult daughter’s affairs. Effectively the legal arrangement meant he took over control of her money and her life.

“She has the most extreme type of conservatorship. It’s one over her person that controls who she can see, where she can live, and where she can go. And also over contracts that she can enter into, money that she could spend. The clearest way I can explain this as like a parent-child relationship,” explains top family law attorney Christopher C. Melcher.

Hollywood attorney to the stars, Christopher C. Melcher, says back in 2008 Britney’s conservatorship was necessary. For 13 years on, he questions why it’s still in place. “The same rules don’t apply to her. They used to when this was first applied, I mean, she’s nearly 40 years of age.”

“There’s no indication that we see publicly why she would need any type of protection. Unless there’s something happening privately that we don’t know about, it makes no sense to me why there would be a court-imposed conservatorship, and that if she asked that it’d be terminated, that it’s possible. That could happen if she only asked for it,” explains high net worth family law attorney Christopher C. Melcher of top family law firm Walzer Melcher LLP.

Does she want her freedom?

She wants to be able to drive her car. She wants to be able to go to the store. She wants her dad removed. 

In the rarefied world celebrities inhabit, strangely they often share their deepest secrets with the least likely of confidence. Billy Brasfield used to do Britney’s makeup and remains one of her closest friends. But he says what he saw of Jamie Spears legal over his daughter, especially in the first years of the conservatorship was cruel.

“She seemed sad to me. Britney seemed very guarded, but now in hindsight, it was because she was being guarded. Someone who has had their most basic human rights taken away from them, and in many ways, it would be easier to be in jail. It would be easier for there to be bars and guards, and you know what the situation is, and you know the crime that you committed and you know why you’re there,” says Brasfield.

Despite her strict living conditions. Billy claims he’s one of the few friends, Britney has been able to stay in contact with. He says they communicate with each other every day.

“So, the way that works is, she has no control over her social media, she is not allowed to email. The authorized phone is limited. She’s not chained, she’s not kept under the staircase and thrown a bone every now and then. I’m not making light of it. She does not have the right to marry. She does not have the right to reproduce. Britney doesn’t deserve to be reduced to the girl in the conservatorship,” says Brasfield.

“If I wasn’t under the restraints that I’m under right now, I’d feel so liberated. When I tell them the way I feel, it’s like they hear me, but they’re really not listening,” says Britney Spears.

“I don’t think she’s being held captive as in a girl in the tower like Rapunzel. But I think that her life is severely, severely restricted and it’s not normal. And that to me is one step above being in jail. Once a pop star. Now a prisoner, makes the predicament thousands of Britney Spears fans now think she’s trapped in, and they’re determined to set her free,” says Brasfield.

13 years ago, the then 26-year-old’s life was in turmoil. Her father and the law stepped in to take over. She was placed under a conservatorship, which meant she lost control of her hard-earned fortune and personal affairs.

Now a controversial New York times documentary is asking tough questions about why, after so many years, the conservatorship remains in place. And in doing so, it’s empowering a growing Free Britney protest group.

“She is so grateful to the movement. The movement has succeeded in bringing attention. That’s why I’m speaking to you. But with the movement comes a lot of things that are not great,” says Brasfield.

While the free Brittany supporters are no doubt well-intentioned, her former makeup artist and confidant Billy Brasfield says they have to be careful not to believe the gossip Britney can’t help but attract. This woman has more conspiracies about her than Donald Trump.

As is often the way, money seems to be a recurring theme anytime Britney Spears’ name is mentioned.

he’s estimated to be worth more than 70 million Australian dollars. With figures that large it’s no surprise, everyone else wants their slice of the action.  And for as long as this court case drags out, they’re getting richer and richer and richer.

All the people that are involved in this entire court proceeding are being paid by Britney. Britney is paying her father, he gets a piece. Jamie’s attorneys are being paid. Britney’s attorneys being paid. All of these people that are involved in this are being paid by Britney. I don’t know how they sleep at night knowing this.

There is some hope for Britney though. Her case returns to court in the next few weeks for an argument about changing who controls her life.

Celebrity lawyer, Christopher C. Melcher says, “It appears Britney’s main concern is ending her father’s role as the key decision-maker”. The fact that her attorney asked that the father be removed, shows that her attorney is acting independently of her father because they’re actually adverse. And so at this point, it seems clear to me that Britney finds protection in the conservatorship, does not want to end it at the moment, and is fine with being under conservatorship. She just doesn’t want her dad involved in it.”

It’s a view Billy Brasfield endorses. He says he’s in daily contact with Britney, and after more than a decade, she wants her dad to butt out. However, the legal gag associated with the conservatorship makes it difficult to definitively know Britney’s wishes.

“She’s not asking just to be thrown out on the street with no management, and no guidance, and nobody to help her with her estate and the money that she has and all of that. What she’s asking is, her father be removed. That’s all she’s asking for.”

For now, Britney Spears’ home, some say prison, is a mansion in Los Angeles, from where, through social media, she does regularly let the world peak into her life.

At times, it’s a little bit strange. But, maybe that’s understandable considering the upheaval, the almost 40-year-old has endured.

What does she want us to know about her right now?

“She wants you to know that she’s happy. That she could be happier. That she’s optimistic about the future. That everything is going in her way and the strategy that they have.”

“If I was coming up with a theme for her next tour, when she does go back out on the road, and I guarantee you as much as I’m sitting here, that she will return to the stage because that’s home for her. I think the theme should be the Phoenix rising out of the ashes. She will be reborn as an even more beautiful, spectacular bird than she ever was.””

©2020 60 Minutes Australia. No claims made to copyrighted material. Aired in 2021.