Britney Spears is free. What going 'from no control to full control' entails, according to experts
Britney Spears is free. Now comes the hard part.
Although there is no question the hearing marked a dream come true for the beleaguered pop star, Spears’ newfound freedom after almost 14 years of a constricting fiscal and personal conservatorship is likely to prove challenging in new ways, family law experts say.
“It’s going to be a rough six to 12 months because it’s difficult to go from no control to full control,” says lawyer Holly Davis of Kirker Davis in Austin, Texas. Spears, who is engaged to fitness influencer Sam Asghari, may be tempted to overdo things "in areas related to her love life, reproductive rights, financial decisions. It will be helpful to have a therapist and financial advisor she trusts.”
The next step is “assembling the team” to help Spears maneuver her life from dependence to independence, says Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor and president of West Coast Trial Lawyers in Los Angeles.
The pitfalls, says Rahmani, are akin to what “college athletes deal with when they suddenly go pro, they’re faced with all this money and all these decisions, and they can be taken advantage of.”
She may be held to a higher standard
Spears fiercely fought against a battery of psychological tests as a requirement to end her conservatorship. She succeeded. Now the challenge will be to take the reins of her life, finances and career while making sure the famously erratic behavior that led to the 2008 conservatorship overseen by her father, Jamie Spears, doesn’t return, says Davis.
“The coming years have to be about showing that she’s OK,” she says. “No public meltdowns, no behavior that suggests you can’t take care of yourself or your kids.”
Given her history, Spears isn't quite as free as the average person with 36 million followers on Instagram and much of her public life documented by paparazzi. Any major signs that her psychological makeup is fraying could land the singer in the same legal jeopardy she was in before, says family lawyer Brent Kaspar, managing partner at Kaspar Lugay in Corte Madera, California.
“If associates or family members, later on, have concerns about her mental health or ability to make rational decisions," the conservatorship process could begin again, says Kaspar.
The people around Britney Spears are 'critical'
Surrounding herself with people who truly have her best interests at heart is critical, experts say.
Spears won’t be starting from zero. On the fiscal front, Spears’ lawyer Mathew Rosengart said in court Friday that accountant John Zabel, who recently was appointed as a temporary conservator of her finances, would retain limited administrative powers as a “safety net.”
Specifically, Zabel will retain power over the execution of estate planning documents and the power to transfer assets outside of Britney's trust into her trust, Rosengart told Judge Brenda Penny.
Spears likely will need to find a trusted adviser quickly on more personal matters. The state-appointed conservator of her person, Jodi Montgomery, also urged for an end to the conservatorship and doesn’t appear likely to stay on.
Will she pursue action against her father?
Spears may have just won a new lease on life, but she can never reclaim her lost years. Much has changed. When the conservatorship was imposed, Spears was 26 and a mother of young children. At its lift she will be nearing 40, her children are teenagers and she's spoken of wanting more children with her fiance, Asghari.
Court records revealed that Spears, who last summer said she would be retiring, currently has a fortune estimated at $60 million. Given that Spears' reluctance to reignite her career dovetailed with her conservatorship concerns, her newfound freedom could spark a return to the recording studio or stage.
As for legal advice, she will need to huddle with lawyers to decide whether to go after her father if she believes there was any malfeasance with her financial affairs.
“The question for Britney is, do you cut your losses and move on or do you sue your father and get back into this,” says Rahmani. “You’re looking then at a full forensic audit and going down a rabbit hole to recover who knows what money.”
After the hearing, Spears' lawyer, Rosengart, held a press conference that suggested he would be going after Jamie Spears, who he said had twice refused to be deposed.
Whether Spears opts to dive back into a legal battle with her father remains to be seen. But the bigger picture is clearer. Now that Spears has the freedom she has fought so hard to get, the challenge will be simply to showcase that the victory is merited, says Davis.
“Now, Britney is simply one of us,” she says. “She’ll have to do the work of processing how to be independent because she’s largely lost that skill. This will in a sense become her life’s work. To build a bridge from no autonomy to total autonomy.”
For Spears superfan Shauna Acampora, a pre-K teacher from North Carolina who flew in for Friday's hearing, the end of the conservatorship means simply that her heroine gets to do whatever she wants – just like the rest of us.
“All of us are just so proud of her for her bravery and everything that she did to get here," said a teary Acampora, who got involved in the #FreeBritney movement in 2019. "As for what’s next for her, anything that she wants. If she wants to perform, amazing. If she doesn’t, and she wants to go live her life, amazing. As long as it’s up to her.”
Contributing: Charles Trepany