Britney Spears has been in a conservatorship since 2008. She has petitioned the court to end it. To understand what she’s up against legally, you have to understand exactly what a conservatorship does.
A conservatorship is a court order that takes decision-making authority away from an adult due to their inability to make sound legal, medical, or financial decisions for themselves. The court then appoints this decision-making authority to another person – the “Conservator.” The person who the Conservator makes decisions for is called a “Ward.” To get a conservatorship, you have to show medical proof of the person’s inability to care for themselves, as well as eye witness testimony describing this inability. In assigning a conservatorship, the court must find clear and convincing evidence that the adult is disabled, that assistance of the court is needed, and the proposed conservatorship is truly the least restrictive alternative of that person’s individual freedom.
Tennessee recognizes two types of conservatorships.
· A conservatorship for the person to make life and healthcare decisions for the person unable to do so.
· A conservatorship for the property to manage the person’s money, property and to pay their bills.
Courts can appoint one person to be conservator over both person and property, but this is generally not the case because that can give one person too much power over the ward. Courts will also appoint a guardian ad litem to investigate the ward’s circumstances, both before and after the conservatorship is granted, to determine if a conservatorship continues to be in the best interest of the ward.
Conservators must make decisions in the best interest of the ward and file an annual report with the court stating in detail the status of the person and/or the finances of the ward. The court will also set a “reasonable fee” for the conservator to take from the finances of the person to compensate the conservator for their services.
In the case of Britney Spears, the court’s fear of this practice giving one person too much power seems to have become a reality, with Spears now stating that she feels taken advantage of by her conservator.
Spears has two conservatorships: one over her person and one over her property. Originally, she had one conservator over them both: her father, Jamie Spears; however, this has expanded to include co-conservators since the Order Appointing Conservator in 2008.
Spears has stated that she has had to work more than she wanted to, has been forced to perform while sick, and has been forced to take medication she did not feel she needed, but instead received as retaliation for stating she did not want to perform and work as much as she was.
Spears stated she did not feel she could get married to her partner with this conservatorship and was not being allowed her own reproductive freedom to halt her birth control at any time. She called the conservatorship “abusive” and “oppressive”, and she has stated her plans to petition for the chance to get her own lawyer and to end the conservatorship totally.
Britney Spears’ case has brought conservatorships into the light recently and has shown the world of their potential for abuse. Not all conservatorships are abusive, though. It is important for Courts to uphold their duty and ensure that what is happening within a court-ordered conservatorship is truly being done in the ward’s best interest.
If you are contemplating a conservatorship for someone you love, or if someone is attempting to take your rights away through a conservatorship process, you need a lawyer. Give us a call.