Britney Spears entered into a conservatorship with her father Jamie Spears in February 2008, which has given him control over his daughter’s life and career for the last 13 years.
The California courts define a conservatorship as a situation where “a judge appoints a responsible person or organization (called the ‘conservator’) to care for another adult (called the ‘conservatee’) who cannot care for himself or herself or manage his or her own finances.”
A fan-led #FreeBritney movement started years ago when the singer’s biggest supporters speculated she was performing and having medical decisions made against her own will. The movement gained major A-list support following the premiere of the New York Times documentary Framing Britney Spears in February 2021, but even before that, in September 2020, #FreeBritney seemed to gain a crucial vocal supporter: Britney herself.
Spears’ voice was finally heard in a rare court appearance in June 2021 when Britney explicitly addressed her desire to end her “abusive” conservatorship and went into painstaking detail about how much control she’s been under.
Billboard compiled a timeline of the major markers in Britney Spears’ conservatorship over the last decade-plus.
Jan. 3 and 31, 2008: Britney Goes to the Hospital on a 5150 Hold Twice
Britney is taken to UCLA Medical Center and placed on a psychiatric hold for mental evaluation, otherwise known as a 5150 hold, after refusing to relinquish custody of her children to her ex-husband and the father of her sons, Kevin Federline. Weeks later, Britney returns to the hospital under the same 5150 psychiatric hold.
Feb. 1, 2008: Britney Is Officially Put in the Conservatorship With Her Father in Charge
A day after she’s taken to the hospital for the second time, her father Jamie orders the Los Angeles Country Supreme Court to put Britney into an emergency temporary conservatorship. He is then named conservator of her person, while he and attorney Andrew Wallet are named co-conservators of her estate.
July 31, 2008: Court Extends Britney’s Conservatorship Until End of the Year
Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Reva Goetz extends Jamie’s control of the pop singer’s financial and personal affairs through the end of 2008.
Oct. 28, 2008: Court Extends Conservatorship Indefinitely
Two months before the temporary court-ordered conservatorship was supposed to see its end, Judge Goetz rules that Jamie will retain control over his daughter for an indefinite period. “The conservatorship is necessary and appropriate for the complexity of financial and business entities and her being susceptible to undue influence,” says Judge Goetz, according to Reuters.
April 25, 2012: Britney’s Then-Fiancé Jason Trawick Becomes Co-Conservator
Judge Goetz approves Britney’s then-fiancé and former agent Jason Trawick to become a co-conservator. Spears requests that he join her court conservatorship months after their engagement in December 2011. He gains control over several decision-making aspects of her personal life but not her assets.
Sept. 27, 2016: Britney Addresses Her Conservatorship for the First Time
Britney films an interview and performance of “Make Me…” for The Jonathan Ross Show, in which Pop Crush contributor Grace Medford reported she opened up about her conservatorship for the first time. “Okay, so I have this conservatorship. I’ve been under this conservatorship for three years and I felt like a lot of decisions were made for me, so I wanted [her ninth studio album Glory] to be my baby and I’ve been really strategic about it,” she tells Ross.
Jan. 4, 2019: Britney Announces Indefinite Hiatus After Her Father Becomes Ill
Britney breaks the news that she won’t perform her second Vegas residency Britney: Domination and she is putting the rest of her career on hold after Jamie’s health takes a turn for the worse. “A couple of months ago, my father was hospitalized and almost died. We’re all so grateful that he came out of it alive, but he still has a long road ahead of him,” she writes in a lengthy Instagram post. “I had to make the difficult decision to put my full focus and energy on my family at this time. I hope you all can understand.”
March 4, 2019: Andrew Wallet Resigns as Britney’s Professional Conservator
Wallet voluntarily resigns from his post as co-conservator of the superstar’s multimillion-dollar estate.
April 3, 2019: Britney Checks Into a Mental Health Treatment Center
The pop star checks into a 30-day program following the news of her father’s declining health. Britney tells fans she’s taking some “me time” on Instagram, three weeks after her father had another surgery to combat issues from his colon rupturing in 2018.
April 25, 2019: Britney Checks Out of Facility
Britney comes home after completing her 30-day program at the facility. But followers of the #FreeBritney movement believe she was in the facility against her will and protested for her release outside West Hollywood City Hall days earlier.
July 26, 2019: Conservatorship Sues ‘Absolute Britney’ Blogger for Defamation
The superstar’s conservatorship files a lawsuit in L.A. against Anthony Elia, who runs the website Absolute Britney, for falsely claiming it has manipulated Britney’s Instagram account to make her appear more troubled than she is. The suit focuses on one heavily circulated Absolute Britney Instagram post from June 14, which reads, “So Britney’s team is deleting positive comments on her Instagram post and leaving negative ones to keep up the illusion that she needs help! … This has to be a human rights violation!!!!”
In its opening line, the lawsuit states: “It is time for the conspiracy theories about Britney Spears’ well-being and the mob #FreeBritney movement to stop.”
Sept. 5, 2019: Jamie Temporarily Steps Down as Britney’s Primary Conservator
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny approves Jamie’s request to be temporarily relieved of his role as conservator of Britney’s person. He files court papers on Sept. 5 asking the court to allow him to step down due to “personal health reasons” and to appoint a temporary conservator, professional fiduciary care manager Jodi Montgomery, in his place starting Sept. 9. Per the documents filed by Jamie, Montgomery not only is in charge of providing temporary care, maintenance and support for Britney, but she also has the power to restrict and limit visitors “by any means” except for Britney’s meeting with her court-appointed attorney Samuel D. Ingham III, the power to retain caretakers on a 24/7 basis, the power to retain security guards, and the power to communicate with Britney’s doctors and have access to any and all records regarding her treatment and diagnosis.
Aug. 19, 2020: Court Extends Conservatorship Until Early the Following Year
Judge Penny rules in a sealed, virtual hearing to extend Britney’s conservatorship until Feb. 1, 2021. Two days earlier, Ingham files a motion expressing his client’s wish to not have her father continue serving as her conservator. Ingham describes the first phase of Britney’s conservatorship as a “triage” to save her and the second phase as her performing period, but Britney’s attorney states her needs and wishes have changed upon entering a third phase.
Sept. 3, 2020: Britney Appears to Show Love to #FreeBritney Movement in Court Filing
For the first time in the decade-plus of her conservatorship, Britney makes a move she’s never made before: She argues to make her case public. Britney files an objection to her father’s motion to have Wallet, the attorney first appointed to be co-conservator of Britney’s estate, reprise his role, forcefully arguing that the public ought to know what is happening to her. Over the past decade, Jamie and the conservatorship’s attorneys have sought to have courtrooms closed and filings sealed in the case.
“Britney’s conservatorship has attracted an unprecedented level of scrutiny from mainstream media and social media alike,” the filing states. “Far from being a conspiracy theory or a ‘joke’ as James reportedly told the media, in large part this scrutiny is a reasonable and even predictable result of James’ aggressive use of the sealing procedure over the years to minimize the amount of meaningful information made available to the public. … Britney welcomes and appreciates the informed support of her many fans.”
Oct. 7, 2020: Ingham Calls Britney’s Capacity Into Question in Court
Ingham says in court that his client lacks the capacity to sign a declaration expressing her wishes to end the conservatorship, comparing her to a “comatose” person. An Aug. 31 filing revealed the conservatorship is voluntary, meaning Britney’s lawyer can file the paperwork to end it whenever she pleases. But she would need to have an evaluation of whether she has the capacity to make such a decision, which Ingham directly questions.
Nov. 3, 2020: Britney Pleads For Removal of Her Father as Conservator in Court Filing
A new court filing requests the immediate removal of Jamie from being co-conservator of Britney’s financial affairs. Her attorney states in court papers that if James is allowed to keep his post, it will cause “Britney to suffer loss and injury.” The filing also argues for Jamie’s removal as soon as Bessemer Trust Company, the wealth management firm the pop icon originally requested in September to oversee her finances instead of her father, is appointed as conservator of her estate.
Nov. 10, 2020: Britney Says She Will No Longer Perform Out of Fear of Her Father
Ingham tells Judge Penny in court that Britney, who has been on an indefinite work hiatus since early 2019, will not resume her career as long as her father still has control over it. “My client has informed me that she is afraid of her father,” he tells the judge. “She will not perform again if her father is in charge of her career.”
Feb. 11, 2021: Britney’s Lawyer Reminds Court She Doesn’t Want Her Father as Conservator
During a half-hour hearing held in Los Angeles Superior Court, Ingham pushes for Bessemer Trust, the co-conservator of the singer’s $60 million estate, to have equal decision-making powers as Jamie, whom Britney didn’t want as conservator. Her lawyer also argues against Jamie’s request to retain power over his daughter’s trust to “delegate the sole responsibility of selecting, investing in and monitoring the particular investment vehicles for the conservatorship assets.” In filed court papers, he states that that would give Jamie unrestricted power to select and compensate his own “professional investment advisors” separate and apart from Bessemer Trust.
March 2, 2021: Britney’s Father Declares His Wish to See Conservatorship Come to an End
Jamie’s attorney Vivian L. Thoreen tells CNN that “[Jamie] would love nothing more than to see Britney not need a conservatorship. Whether or not there is an end to the conservatorship really depends on Britney. If she wants to end her conservatorship, she can file a petition to end it.”
March 10, 2021: Jamie Responds to GOP Congressmen’s Call for Federal Hearings Into Conservatorships
Britney’s father speaks out against Congressmen Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Jim Jordan (R-OH) after they asked for federal hearings about conservatorships and noted the singer’s as the “most striking example” by citing the #FreeBritney movement. In a formal letter to House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY), the two congressmen outline their request for a hearing “to examine whether Americans are trapped unjustly in conservatorships,” not just looking into Britney’s case but the system as a whole.
Thoreen issues a response to Entertainment Tonight, which in part says, “Jamie Spears has diligently and professionally carried out his duties as one of Britney’s conservators, and his love for his daughter and dedication to protecting her is clearly apparent to the court.”
March 23, 2021: Britney Requests Jodi Montgomery Remain as Conservator
Britney files a request that Jodi Montgomery, who the court appointed as a temporary conservator in late 2019 and has had power over her personal decisions, take the place of her father, whom she wanted to resign from the role. The court documents also make clear that Britney’s request did not indicate she was giving up her “the right to petition for the termination of this conservatorship.”
April 27, 2021: Britney Is Granted Hearing to Speak in Court
Britney’s attorney Ingham makes the request for Britney to address the court herself about the status of her conservatorship, which is made on an expedited basis.
June 22, 2021: Court Documents Reveal Britney’s Fight to End Conservatorship
Confidential court records obtained by The New York Times reveal how the pop superstar has quietly been advocating for the end of the conservatorship, which “restricted everything from whom she dated to the color of her kitchen cabinets,” and resists her father’s role as conservator. “She articulated she feels the conservatorship has become an oppressive and controlling tool against her,” a court investigator wrote in a 2016 report, later recalling how Britney said that the system had “too much control.” “She is ‘sick of being taken advantage of’ and she said she is the one working and earning her money but everyone around her is on her payroll.” And in a 2014 hearing closed to the public, her attorney Ingham told the court that Britney wanted her father removed from the position after running down a “shopping list” of grievances, such as his drinking.
June 23, 2021: Britney Tells All in Harrowing Court Hearing
Britney directly addresses an open court with an excruciating account of what she’s endured under the conservatorship and voices her desire to end it. “I’m not here to be anyone’s slave,” she tells Judge Penny. During her 20-minute testimony in the remote hearing, the singer details how she was forced to keep working; believes her father and her team should be in jail; wants to sue her family; and is not allowed to get married, have more children or remove her IUD.
June 28, 2021: LA Courts End Remote Audio Program Following Britney’s Hearing
Fans do not heed Judge Penny’s warning that recording of and live-tweeting during Britney’s court testimony is not allowed, as her audio makes the rounds on the internet hours later. As a result, the state court shuts down its remote audio attendance program entirely.
June 29, 2021: Jamie Asks Court to Investigate Britney’s Testimony
Britney’s father seeks a court probe of the statements she made in her headline-making hearing a week earlier. The documents Jamie file underline the need to investigate “serious allegations regarding forced labor, forced medical treatment and therapy, improper medical care, and limitations on personal rights.”
July 1, 2021: Bessemer Trust Requests to Resign From Conservatorship
Bessemer Trust requests to resign its role from her conservatorship “due to changed circumstances,” citing Britney’s public disdain for the “abusive” arrangement in her harrowing court hearing the week before. According to The New York Times, the bank company claims in the new court filing it was told Britney’s conservatorship was voluntary and the singer had consented to its role as co-conservator of her estate but was surprised to hear her adamantly express her desire to see it come to an end.
July 5, 2021: Manager Larry Rudolph Resigns
Rudolph, who oversaw Spears’ career for more than 25 years, submitted his resignation to the conservators after the superstar voiced her intentions to retire. He wrote, “I believe it is in Britney’s best interest for me to resign from her team as my professional services are no longer needed.”
July 6, 2021: Her Lawyer Files to Resign
Ingham, who was court assigned and has represented the pop star for 13 years, filed to resign from the conservatorship. During Spears’ testimony, she had told the judge that though she had developed a good relationship with her attorney, she would like to be able to choose her own lawyer.
July 7, 2021: Conservator Requests Security Costs
Montgomery petitioned the court to have the conservatorship pay for round-the-clock security for herself, citing an increase in death threats she has received since Spears’ testimony on June 23. The following day, co-conservator Jamie Spears’ attorney filed an opposition to the request, noting that Montgomery isn’t the only person who has received threats, and anticipates that if granted, others will also ask for security to be paid for.
July 14, 2021: Spears Is Allowed to Pick Her Own Attorney
In another groundbreaking hearing in Spears’ conservatorship case, Judge Penny granted the pop star permission to Hollywood power lawyer Mathew Rosengart of Greenberg Traurig in her pursuit of ending the arrangement. While phoning into the hearing, Spears broke down in tears and told the judge she wanted her father be charged with conservatorship abuse. “I want to get my dad removed, ma’am,” the singer said. “I’m angry and I will go there.”
July 16, 2021: Spears Calls Out Her Dad, Sister Jamie Lynn
The pop star shared a message on Instagram in which she blasted her dad and younger sister. “For those of you who choose to criticize my dancing videos … look I’m not gonna be performing on any stages anytime soon with my dad handling what I wear, say, do, or think !!!!” she wrote, before adding, “I don’t like that my sister showed up at an awards show and performed MY SONGS to remixes !!!!!”
July 20, 2021: Bipartisan ‘Free Britney’ Act introduced
Rep. Charlie Crist, a Democrat from Florida, and Rep. Nancy Mace, a Republican from South Carolina, introduced the bipartisan FREE Act after being inspired by Spears’ emotional June 23 testimony. “The Britney Spears conservatorship, it’s a nightmare. If this can happen to her, it can happen to anybody,” Mace told The New York Times. If passed, the bill would allow those under a conservatorship to request that the conservator be replaced by a public guardian employed by the state, a family member or a private agent who has no personal or financial conflict of interest.
July 20, 2021: Her New Attorney Promises to Move ‘Aggressively’
Mathew Rosengart, whom Spears chose and the court approved to be her new attorney, told reporters that he would move “aggressively and expeditiously” to remove Jamie Spears from the conservatorship.
July 23, 2021: Official Request to Replace Jamie Spears
Rosengart filed a petition to officially request the replacement of Jamie Spears as conservator. The petition seeks to appoint CPA Jason Rubin as the next conservator of the pop star’s estate, and notes that she selected him herself.
Including in the filing was a declaration from Lynne Spears, in which she claimed that Jamie was “incapable” of putting their daughter’s interests ahead of his own, and alleged that a “physical altercation” between her ex-husband and the pop star’s two sons “destroyed whatever was left” of the father-daughter relationship.
Aug. 6, 2021: Jamie Spears Fires Back
Britney’s dad responded to the request to remove him as conservator in filing, saying there are “no grounds whatsoever” for his removal. Per the filing, he “has dutifully and faithfully served as the conservator of his daughter’s estate without any blemishes on his record.” The filing also claimed that Rosengart “does not (and cannot) specify what the wrongdoing is” that would require Jamie’s suspension from the conservatorship.
Aug. 12, 2021: Jamie Spears Agrees to Step Down
In a new filing, Jamie Spears reluctantly agreed to step away from his responsibilities as conservator of the pop star’s estate. “Even as Mr. Spears is the unremitting target of unjustified attacks, he does not believe that a public battle with his daughter over his continuing service as her conservator would be in her best interests,” his lawyer wrote in the filing obtained by Billboard. ““So even though he must contest this unjustified Petition for his removal, Mr. Spears intends to work with the Court and his daughter’s new attorney to prepare for an orderly transition to a new conservator.”
As before, Jamie claimed that there are “no factual grounds” for his removal from the conservatorship. In this filing, he also takes aim at ex-wife Lynne, who alleged in the petition to remove him that he had “microscopic control” over their daughter’s life and was “incapable” of prioritizing the star’s interests. He called her claims “ludicrous” and her declaration “inaccurate.”