- Mark Savage
- BBC Music Correspondent
Britney Spears apologized to her fans for “pretending that she was okay” while suffering from what she called “abusive” guardianship.
The pop star declared in court in the United States on Wednesday that she wants the legal guardianship – which controls her personal life and finances – to end after 13 years.
She revealed that this arrangement forces her to use contraception and prevents her from marrying her boyfriend.
Communicating on Instagram, he said that it had not been expressed before by “pride”.
“I’m pointing this out to people because I don’t want them to think that my life is perfect because it definitely isn’t, and if they’ve read anything about me on the news this week … obviously they’ll know it’s not true,” he said.
Spears apologized to her supporters for hiding the truth from them, adding: “I did it out of pride and was embarrassed to share what had happened to me … but honestly, who doesn’t want to cast her Instagram in a happy light!”
The 39-year-old singer has been under legal guardianship since 2008, when concern about her mental health prompted her father, Jamie Spears, to petition the court to exercise legal authority over his daughter’s life.
On Wednesday in court, Britney read a prepared statement calling for an end to that deal.
“I have been in a denial phase. I have been in shock. I am traumatized,” she declared in a 23-minute emotional speech. “All I want is my life back.”
In response, Britney’s father said that he always has looked out for your best interests.
So what are the chances that the guardianship will end? We asked two US family law and guardianship attorneys – Alexander Ripps of Binning Ripps, and Christopher Melcher of Walzer Melcher – for their analysis.
How effective was Britney arguing her case?
Christopher Melcher: From a legal point of view, I don’t know if her statement helped her much. It helped us, as well as the public, to know what it wants, and it silenced speculation about whether it was voluntarily subjected to this tutelage. That made it crystal clear.
If I were advising her, I would have advised her to present herself calmly, recognizing that she had had problems 13 years ago that justified her protection; showing awareness of what those problems were; and articulating the steps you’ve taken to ensure that you don’t find yourself in that situation again. That would give the court an assurance that you don’t need that help.
If it had been a calm presentation, it would be difficult for the court to find a reason to justify the guardianship. But we saw a more explosive, emotional, raw statement from Britney. I understand why you might feel this way, but I don’t know if you did yourself a favor.
Alexander Ripps: Based on my reading of the transcript I think it was effective. To get to the nitty gritty, she said in no uncertain terms that she wanted to see the guardianship terminated.
While he acknowledged that he still has problems to resolve, he has already raised his opposition to the guardianship directly in front of the court. The standard for adjudicating a guardianship is very high; and if Britney can show that her mental condition has improved since guardianship was imposed, the court should reassess her need.
What is the next step, from a legal point of view?
Christopher Melcher: Well, the hearing on Wednesday was just to listen to Britney. She made it clear that she wants the guardianship to end but has not formally requested it. The next step is to file a request to terminate the order – and then the court would hold a hearing.
Alexander Ripps: In the application, Britney would have to list the facts showing that the guardianship is no longer required or that the grounds that established the guardianship no longer exist. Once the application is submitted, a date for the hearing would be agreed.
At some point before the hearing, the court investigator should interview Britney and then deliver a report. Of course, interested parties would have the opportunity to present their objections.
Christopher Melcher: Britney commented on it. She said she was opposed to being evaluated. So the court can order the evaluation – but cannot physically force you to attend and answer questions.
If you do not do the evaluation, the court may consider your refusal to do so as a basis for denying your request to terminate the guardianship. So we’ll have to see how that plays out.
She told the court that she had investigated previous guardianship cases, and that there have been instances where an evaluation has not been necessary. Is that true, in your experience?
Christopher Melcher: The court does not have to ask for one. For me, placing an adult under guardianship is an extreme measure. It is taking away the freedom of the person to make decisions that an adult would ordinarily make on his own.
We should not do that with someone unless they are severely disabled, developmentally related disabilities, unable to care for themselves, or resist undue influence.
I think a judge should be able to identify that very quickly, with a simple interview of the person. If you are able to have a 30 minute conversation with the court, that would help us to understand a lot. And I wonder how much an evaluation is going to reveal.
The attorney for Britney he requested that any subsequent hearing be held in private. Could this be the last time we hear the arguments in public?
Christopher Melcher: That was a surprise from the testimony on Wednesday, that it wasn’t a closed-door session.
I hoped, for Britney’s sake, that the court would exclude the public because the nature of the guardianship is highly personal. It involves medical issues, mental health issues, the conflict with her father. I don’t think it’s healthy for Britney for all that information to be aired in public to be criticized and repeated.
I suspect that most people who are under guardianship would report that it is unfair. What has been your experience?
Christopher Melcher: That is exactly correct. Guardianship, by its very nature, is one adult controlling another adult. And anyone sufficiently aware of their situation would surely protest about it.
The question is whether it is necessary. As for Britney, I don’t know what the evidence is going to be when she decides to file the motion to terminate the guardianship.
Will you be able to present friends who have seen you in your daily activity, who can testify that there has been no erratic behavior? Or, have you been so isolated that you no longer have those witnesses on your side?
And, will guardians testify as to their behavioral observations that would justify the court continuing to order the guardianship? Will there be recordings of Britney – perhaps in a private moment – that show, in one way or another, how she is behaving? All of these things will surface.
Is there a way your guardians could prevent you from requesting an end of guardianship?
Alexander Ripps: No. The right of a ward to request a petition to terminate is contemplated in the statutory provision of California Probate Code Sec. 1861 (a).
What kind of arguments could they use to maintain the current situation?
Alexander Ripps: It should be taken into account that there are two elements in a guardianship: the guardianship of the person and the guardianship of their assets [las finanzas de Britney].
Conservatorship of the estate may be justified for someone who is substantially unable to manage their financial resources, or someone who is unable to defend themselves from fraud or undue influence.
This is where I think there has been a disconnect with the public. I don’t think the public had all the information about what was going on in Britney’s life that would have made her susceptible to undue influence.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.