In a striking development after more than a decade of public silence regarding the court-approved conservatorship that oversees her life, Britney Spears gave a passionate speech before a Los Angeles probate judge on Wednesday, sharply criticizing her father, as her parents and their lawyers listened on.
“I’ve been in denial. I’ve been in shock. I am traumatized,” Ms. Spears said, during a remote hearing. “I just want my life back.”
Ms. Spears said she wants the conservatorship to end “without having to be evaluated.” She added: “I truly believe this conservatorship is abusive.”
The move came after the singer’s court-appointed lawyer in the conservatorship, Samuel D. Ingham III, requested in April that Ms. Spears be allowed — on an expedited basis — to address the judge directly. Last year, Mr. Ingham began requesting substantial changes to the conservatorship on behalf of Ms. Spears, including stripping power from her father, James P. Spears, who had long overseen her personal life and finances.
Mr. Ingham said at the time that his client “strongly opposed” Mr. Spears as conservator, adding that she was afraid of her father and would not return to performing so long as he was in charge.
Ms. Spears, through her lawyer, also called for more transparency in the case, with Mr. Ingham writing that the singer was “vehemently opposed to this effort by her father to keep her legal struggle hidden away in the closet as a family secret.”
Confidential court records obtained recently by The New York Times revealed that Ms. Spears had raised issues with her father’s role as early as 2014, and has repeatedly asked about terminating the conservatorship altogether, though Mr. Ingham has not publicly filed to do so.
Ms. Spears has lived under a two-pronged conservatorship in California — covering her person and her estate — since 2008, when concerns about the singer’s mental health and potential substance abuse led Mr. Spears to petition the court for authority over his daughter.
Mr. Spears, 68, currently oversees his daughter’s nearly $60 million fortune, alongside a professional wealth management firm she requested; a licensed professional conservator took over Ms. Spears’s personal care on an ongoing temporary basis in 2019.
Representatives for Mr. Spears and the conservatorship have said that it was necessary to protect Ms. Spears, and that she could move to end the conservatorship whenever she wanted.
Vivian L. Thoreen, a lawyer for Mr. Spears, said earlier this year that he had “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.”
But fans and observers have questioned how Ms. Spears has continued to qualify for a conservatorship, sometimes known as a guardianship, which is typically a last resort for people who cannot care for themselves, including those with serious disabilities or dementia. Until recently, the singer had continued to perform and bring in millions of dollars under the arrangement.
In 2016, Ms. Spears told a court investigator assigned to her case that she wanted the conservatorship to end as soon as possible, according to the records reported by The Times. “She articulated she feels the conservatorship has become an oppressive and controlling tool against her,” the investigator wrote. “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.”
At the time, the investigator, who is responsible for periodic evaluations that are provided to the judge, concluded that the conservatorship remained in Ms. Spears’s best interest because of her complex finances, susceptibility to undue influence and “intermittent” drug issues. But the report also called for “a pathway to independence and the eventual termination of the conservatorship.”
At a closed-door hearing in 2019, Ms. Spears told the judge that she had been made to perform against her will and that she felt forced by the conservatorship into a stay at a mental health facility. She said there was nothing wrong with her, according to court records.
Watch ‘Framing Britney Spears’
Our documentary about Britney Spears and her court battle with her father over control of her fortune is free on our site for New York Times subscribers in the United States. Watch it now.