Why is #FreeBritney trending and what is conservatorship? Here’s everything you need to know

Over the past weeks there’s been a fresh push to by fans to free Britney Spears of her conservatorship – get the lowdown on what that means

Throughout lockdown Britney Spears has been keeping herself entertained by posting regularly to social media; but to some fans of the popstar, something feels “off”. Concerned about the artist’s wellbeing, they’ve claimed that Spears is using social media to send secret messages asking for help.

This concern has seen the resurgence of the #FreeBritney hashtag and resulted in fans scrutinising the conservatorship that Britney’s been under for the past 12 years, with calls for her to be released from the legal agreement.

Here’s what you need to know.

What’s a conservatorship?

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A conservatorship is a legal concept in America, where a guardian or protector is appointed to somebody if a court finds that person can’t manage their own affairs. This may be due to old age, being a minor, or if they suffer from a serious mental illness.

The role of the conservator varies, but they often handle the conservatee’s estate and finances. They could also be responsible for their career negotiations, health care or living arrangements.

Why is Britney Spears under conservatorship?

In the late 2000s, Spears had a very public breakdown. She was seen driving with her son on her lap, hitting a photographer’s car with an umbrella, went through a phase of speaking with a British accent and infamously shaved her head.

In January 2008 Britney was committed to a psychiatric ward under a 5150 Hold (which means she was taken in involuntarily for evaluation). After being committed for a second time, her father Jamie Spears petitioned with the Los Angeles County Superior Court to put her under “temporary conservatorship” as an emergency. This temporary conservatorship was later made permanent, with her lawyer Andrew Wallet and father having long-term control of Britney’s assets and business affairs. Britney has been under conservatorship ever since. In 2019 Andrew Wallet resigned as co-conservator, leaving Jamie solely responsible.

Court documents show that Jamie Spears had the power to decide what visitors Britney has, as well as negotiate career decisions. He’s even able to file restraining orders against those who he feels endanger his daughter.

In 2019, Jamie Spears temporarily stepped down as conservator of Britney’s personal life to “focus on his health”, with Spears “care manager” Jodi Montgomery taking on the role.

What is #FreeBritney?

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The #FreeBritney hashtag has been around for over a decade, first started by fans as a response to the conservatorship when it was initially instigated. It’s a call from the popstar’s followers to free Britney from the conservatorship that controls her everyday life.

The hashtag started to make the rounds again 2019. In March of that year Britney entered a psychiatric facility to “focus on self-care”. The following month, a podcast that analyses Britney’s Instagram account (titled Britney’s Gram), included audio of somebody who alleged to be a paralegal involved in the conservatorship case. This audio raised concerns about Spears’ safety and alleged that Britney was being held against her will in the psychiatric facility.

Why’s #FreeBritney trending again now?

Over the past few weeks, fans have alleged that Britney has been sending indirect messages through her social media asking for help. At one point a fan asked Britney to wear a yellow shirt in her next video if she needed help, which she did; and another asked her to post doves if she was in trouble.

These could be a coincidence; but the new interest in #FreeBritney has also resulted in posts scrutinising the conservatorship going viral on social media.

It’s also seen Britney’s former photographer Andrew Gallery share a letter that he alleges Britney sent him, where she says she was ‘lied to and set up’ by her father.

What happens next?

Britney’s conservatorship was recently extended until at least August 22, which came after a hearing on the matter couldn’t take place due to Coronavirus. With that date approaching, fans are also campaigning for Britney to have access to her own lawyer to help her get out of the agreement.

Her mother, Lynne Spears, has now asked to be included in all decisions about her daughter’s finances, filing legal documents to do so.

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