Britney Spears' father suspended from singer's conservatorship

Jamie Spears has been suspended from Britney Spears' conservatorship. Credit: AP

Britney Spears' father has been suspended from the singer's conservatorship, a judge in the US has ruled.

Judge Brenda Penny said, during a heated hearing at Los Angeles Superior Court on Wednesday, Jamie Spears remaining in charge of his daughter’s estate was “untenable”.

The 69-year-old was ordered to turn over the relevant documents to John Zabel, a certified public accountant, who has been appointed temporary conservator of the singer’s £45 million estate.

ITV News US Correspondent Emma Murphy who has been closely following the court battle wrote that the outcome is exactly what the singer would have wanted.

Had the conservatorship been immediately cancelled, the conservatorship documents would not have to be handed over, meaning Mr Spears' handling of the past 13 years would not be scrutinised to determine if any wrongs were committed.

Mr Spears' legal team had forcefully argued against his suspension, instead arguing termination of the complex legal arrangement was the correct course.

However, the judge sided with Ms Spears’s lawyer, agreeing it was in the star’s “best interests” that her father be removed.

The court was told Mr Spears' continued involvement was “toxic”.

The move marks the latest major milestone in the singer’s attempts to free herself from the arrangement that has overseen her life and career since 2008.

The judge’s decision will likely be celebrated by members of the #FreeBritney movement, a global group of supporters who have long called for the conservatorship to be terminated.

A decision on the termination could come before the end of the year following months of fast-paced developments in what was once a staid and slow-moving case.

Mr Spears stepped down from his role overseeing his daughter’s personal affairs in 2019, but had maintained control of her finances.

Jodi Montgomery remains conservator of the singer’s person.

Mr Spears, who said he would step down in August, had criticised his daughter’s choice of successor.

His lawyer, Vivian Thoreen, argued Mr Zabel, a certified public accountant, was unqualified.

She pointed to an alleged failed business deal in which Mr Zabel is said to have lost “one million of his own money in a fraudulent real estate project”.

The elder Spears had reiterated his desire for the conservatorship to be terminated.

What is a conservatorship?

Under US law, conservatorships are granted when a person is deemed unfit to make important personal and financial decisions for themselves.

They are usually granted to the relatives of people with dementia or mental disabilities, and the conservator is given legal responsibility over things like health care, housekeeping and financial management. Any changes to the agreement need to go through the court.

In Ms Spears' case, her father was a joint conservator of her financial affairs alongside the Bessemer Trust, an estate management firm.

He was also in charge of her personal affairs until 2019, when Jodi Montgomery - a court appointed professional - was granted control on a temporary basis.

How much freedom does Spears currently have?

Conservatorship restrictions are determined by the court on a case-by-case basis.

Since the start of Spears' arrangement, she has been allowed to work, recording albums and touring the world. She is able to regularly post on social media, go on holiday and continue her relationship with her boyfriend.

However, the legal conservators are responsible for monitoring Spears' visits with her children, and must approve any marriage plans or business deals.

During one of her court hearings, Ms Spears told how the rules of the conservatorship meant she was not allowed to have any more children - she had a contraceptive device fitted - and was unable to marry her boyfriend.

The singer is also given a monitored allowance from her estimated $60 million fortune.

Why does Britney Spears need a conservatorship?

Mr Spears was given conservatorship over his daughter after she was hospitalised for mental health reasons in 2008.

Following a number of highly publicised incidents - which culminated in Ms Spears losing custody of her two sons - a court ruled that Mr Spears and a co-conservator should have temporary rights over her finances and medical decisions. This was later made permanent.

No records outlining Ms Spears' exact mental health conditions have ever been made public, but her father's legal team have emphasised her vulnerability to people who could take advantage of her money and fame.

Is it possible to get out of a conservatorship?

In theory, a judge can dissolve a conservatorship arrangement at any time if the person is proven to be fit enough to take over their own affairs again.

In practice though, it's rare for someone to fully recover from the kind of circumstances that lead to a conservatorship in the first place.

A conservatorship has been in place for Britney Spears since 2008. Credit: Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File

What is the #FreeBritney movement?

Over the past few years, fans have been watching Spears' regular Instagram posts, and supposedly finding hidden messages they believe are cries for help.

The hashtag #FreeBritney has grown in popularity around the world, and recently even minor court hearings around her conservatorship have drawn big crowds of protesters outside, rallying for her freedom and posting updates on social media.

'This conservatorship has been fraudulent since day one', Free Britney activist Leanne Simmons tells ITV News US Correspondent Emma Murphy

Celebrities, including Paris Hilton, Miley Cyrus and Pitbull, have all spoken out in support of the campaign.

The release of the hugely popular New York Times' documentary 'Framing Britney Spears' earlier this year, brought the movement to further global fame and expanded its following, even as the singer suggested she didn't approve of the programme.

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