By Leah Mize
Britney Spears is finally free as her father, Jamie Spears, is no longer her legal conservator and in charge of her estate and body.
The two-pronged conservatorship is still in place with Spears’ accountant John Zabel in charge of her estate and finances while Jodi Montgomery is in charge of Spears’ personal life. A hearing scheduled for Nov. 12 will determine whether to end the conservatorship altogether.
Spears’s conservatorship began in Jan. 2008 during the aftermath of her infamous public breakdown. Initially, it was meant to be a temporary solution in order to address her immediate mental health crisis, set off by her divorce from Kevin Federline as well as her loss of custody over her two sons. Instead, it became a years-long death grip on her money, likeness, and autonomy. No decision could be made without the approval of her father, even when she showed no signs of mental distress or incapability.
According to the California Courts website, there’s different types of conservatorships but they’re all intended for adults who are proven to be incapable of caring for themselves.
Spears was under a probate conservatorship, which is notable for a few reasons. According to California Courts, conservatorships, regardless of the type, are meant for adults who cannot fully care for themselves or their finances, such as elderly patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. In many circumstances, Spears is capable of caring for herself and her finances.
“It seems quite unusual that you would have a person who was capable of going out and doing all the kinds of professional activities she was doing, who is found to be totally incapable of managing either her personal or property affairs,” said Leslie Salzman, clinical law professor at the Cardozo School of Law in an NPR article.
Due to Spears’ case causing the general public to examine conservatorships, many have reconsidered disability rights as a whole. In addition to probate conservatorships like Spears has, the Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) conservatorship is meant for “adults with serious mental health illnesses who need special care” such as living in long-term mental health care facilities under strict supervision.
Spears’ plight to end her conservatorship drew the attention of Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey, who, according to an article from Time magazine, wrote a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services as well as the Department of Justice calling for increased federal oversight on conservatorships.
Opponents argue that conservatees can still maintain some autonomy while under the legal control of someone else. According to Calmatters.org, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing a nonpartisan explanation of California political issues, many people under conservatorships aren’t always reported, making it difficult to know exactly how many people are conservatees. As outlined by Senators Warren and Casey in their letter, this is a problem on the federal level as well as the state level.
“I think it would be worthwhile to conduct more research into the biases seen in conservator/conservatee relationships in terms of race, gender, and class,” said Katrina Weiss, junior biology major.
Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons. The Minaret does not own this image.