Entertainment·Timeline

How platinum-record-selling superstar Britney Spears ended up in court fighting for control over own finances

As Britney Spears is set to address a Los Angeles court on Wednesday regarding her 13-year conservatorship, here is everything you need to know about the singer's case and the fan-led movement that is advocating for her independence.

Pop superstar is scheduled to address a Los Angeles court Wednesday regarding her 13-year conservatorship

Singer Britney Spears, shown above arriving at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles, is set to address court over the conservatorship she says has governed her life since it was filed in 2008. Spears was only 26 when she was placed under her father's management in the arrangement — which is typically put in place for elderly people in need of care. (Danny Moloshok/Reuters)

Britney Spears is scheduled to speak in court on Wednesday regarding the conservatorship that she says has governed her life for 13 years.

Approved in 2008, the conservatorship was first filed by the now 39-year-old pop star's father, Jamie. The purpose was to have a guardian assume control over decisions around Spears's life and finances, since the courts had deemed she couldn't make those decisions for herself. 

The arrangement is typically made for elderly people in need of care. Spears was only 26 when she was placed under her father's management.

CBC News breaks down a timeline of the events that led up to this moment and why fans are so troubled.

2007: Spears shows distress amid divorce, custody battle 

In the years leading up to her conservatorship, Spears dealt with hordes of paparazzi and endured mean-spirited coverage from tabloids and mainstream media.

The singer began showing signs of distress in 2007, as her divorce from Kevin Federline dominated celebrity news. Between numerous periods in a rehabilitation facility, Spears attacked a paparazzo's car with an umbrella and infamously shaved her head in a California salon.

Her widely mocked performance of Gimme More at the annual MTV Video Music Awards concerned supporters and served as fodder for detractors, prompting a young fan to defend her online in a culture-shifting video titled Leave Britney Alone.

WATCH | Spears performs at the 2007 MTV VMAs:

2008: Conservatorship begins

In the context of a child-custody dispute with Federline, Spears was placed under an involuntary psychiatric hold in January 2008. Federline was subsequently awarded full custody of their children. Later that month, Spears was placed under hold again.

That February, Jamie Spears was granted a temporary conservatorship and assumed control over his daughter's personal life and finances. The arrangement was made permanent eight months later and lawyer Andrew Wallet was brought on as co-conservator. In Spears's case, her medical decisions, visits with her sons and business deals were arranged by her father and Wallet.

In an MTV documentary filmed during the lead-up to her Circus comeback, Spears said that under her conservatorship, "There's no excitement. There's no passion."

2009-18: Approval needed for all appearances

The pop star's brand was lucrative. After Circus she released three more albums: Femme Fatale (2011), Britney Jean (2013) and Glory (2016). She also starred on The X-Factor as a judge and completed a four-year concert residency in Las Vegas.

"As long as she is bringing in so much money and as long as the lawyers and conservators are getting paid, there is little incentive to end it," Elaine Renoire, president of the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse, said in a 2016 New York Times interview about the case.

Spears performs onstage at the 2016 iHeartRadio Music Festival at T-Mobile Arena on September 24, 2016 in Las Vegas. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

January 2019: Spears announces 'indefinite work hiatus'

In January 2019, Spears announced an "indefinite work hiatus," cancelling a planned concert residency in Las Vegas after her father fell ill.

Two months later, Wallet resigned as co-conservator, leaving Jamie Spears as sole guardian over his daughter's affairs.

Spring 2019: #FreeBritney movement goes mainstream

In 2019, hosts of the Britney's Gram podcast — which decodes posts from the singer's Instagram page — received an anonymous voice message from someone claiming to be a paralegal who worked on Spears's case in 2019.

The individual claimed Spears cancelled her residency over a medication-related dispute with her father Jamie. 

Later that month, a fan protest was staged outside of a conservatorship hearing in Los Angeles, where supporters wielded signs scrawled with "#FreeBritney."

In May, Spears addressed a Los Angeles court regarding her conservatorship, but her testimony was sealed from the public.

WATCH | An explanation of the #FreeBritney movement:

#FreeBritney movement supports Britney Spears’s fight for autonomy

1 year ago
2:01
Britney Spears is trying to change the terms of her 12-year conservatorship. She is pushing to have her father removed as the sole conservator of her affairs, a role that gives him major powers over the pop star. 2:01

Later that fall, Spears' father temporarily stepped down as her "conservator of person," citing health concerns. He remained the primary conservator of the star's finances.

The conservator of person position was filled by Jodi Montgomery, a court-appointed professional conservator.

2020: Lawyer says Spears 'fears her father'

In August 2020, Spears requested that Montgomery permanently replace her father.

The pop star's lawyer, Samuel Ingham, said Spears "fears her father" and that she wouldn't perform as long as Jamie Spears was her conservator.

2021: Framing Britney Spears comes out

In January, 2021, the release of The New York Times Presents: Framing Britney Spears — a documentary about Spears's life, featuring interviews with former handlers, lawyers and #FreeBritney activists — renewed public interest in the star's legal case.

WATCH | A closer look at the acclaimed documentary about Spears:

Documentary aims to reframe Britney Spears

7 months ago
2:00
The new documentary Framing Britney Spears is pushing a cultural reckoning on how the media treats women and celebrities and looks to reframe how the world and media treated a young woman in distress. 2:00

Spears wrote on Instagram that, while she did not watch it in full, she was embarrassed by the documentary and "cried for two weeks," after seeing parts of it.

Amid a number of fan and celebrity reactions to the film, Justin Timberlake made a public apology for his treatment of Spears during their four-year relationship which ended in 2002.

Spears was publicly antagonized after their breakup, as Timberlake released a video for his song Cry Me a River that unfavourably depicted a Spears look-alike.

Justin Timberlake posted a lengthy apology on Instagram in February 2021, addressing his treatment of Spears over the course of their four-year relationship. In this Jan. 8, 2001 file photo, Spears and Timberlake arrive at the 28th Annual American Music Awards in Los Angeles. (The Associated Press)

2021: Spears to address court for first time in years

In April, it was reported that Spears, via Ingham, requested to address the court regarding her conservatorship. The hearing on June 23 will mark the first time in two years that Spears has spoken to the court. 

While Spears has said in court filings the legal arrangement saved her from exploitation and financial ruin, Ingham said Spears disapproved of her father's role in it, saying, "It is no secret that my client does not want her father as co-conservator."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jenna Benchetrit is a senior writer for CBC News entertainment and education. She can be reached at jenna.benchetrit@cbc.ca.

With files from The Associated Press

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