Britney Spears’ father suspended from singer’s conservatorship

Britney Spears’ father has been suspended as conservator of the singer’s estate, after a Los Angeles judge called the 13-year arrangement “toxic”.

The Baby One More Time singer has been under a conservatorship since 2008, after suffering what her father said was a mental health breakdown. Since that time, decisions about her finances and personal care have been managed by her dad, Jamie Spears.  

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny decided after hearing testimony from Mathew Rosengart, the singer’s attorney, on Wednesday to appoint a temporary conservator nominated by Ms Spears herself.

"The current situation is not tenable. It reflects a toxic environment which requires the suspension of Jamie Spears effective today," Judge Penny said during the court hearing.

Mr Rosengart has insisted in court filings that Mr Spears be removed immediately as conservator and that a transition period is agreed so that the increasingly contentious conservatorship can be terminated before the year ends.

On Wednesday he called the arrangement a “Kafkaesque nightmare”.

John Zabel, a certified public accountant, will take over the 39-year-old’s financial affairs until the court decides she is ready to look after herself again.

In making her ruling, Judge Penny told the court she "believes that the suspension of James Spears is in the best interests of Ms Spears."

Ms Spears, who claimed in a July hearing that she was not aware she could request to end her conservatorship, did so in an appeal earlier this month.

In a surprising filing, Mr Spears’ lawyers also requested that the court instead end the conservatorship.

However, terminating a conservatorship without a medical evaluation – as Ms Spears and now her father have asked for – is unlikely.

Any mental evaluation could take several months to complete.

A hearing to fully terminate the guardianship is expected before the end of the year.

The singer stepped up her efforts in June to break free of the conservatorship, telling the judge in her first public comments that she found it abusive and humiliating.

Outside the courtroom, hundreds of fans holding #FreeBritney signs rallied in support of the singer.

Mr Spears has controlled his daughter’s business affairs since 2008, when he placed her under a conservatorship following a mental breakdown. The court-approved conservatorship dictates her personal, medical and financial affairs, but the nature of her mental condition has never been revealed.

It is most frequently used for someone who is severely mentally incapacitated, or suffering from dementia.

Yet in the 13 years of Ms Spears’ conservatorship, she has released four albums, appeared as a judge on both The X Factor and American Idol, and had a four-year residency in Las Vegas that reportedly grossed close to $138 million.

Since the last hearing in July, three documentaries about the Spears conservatorship have been released.

The latest one alleged that the singer’s phone and bedroom were bugged, and Ms Spears’ attorney is demanding that her father be suspended as the guardian of the singer’s $60 million estate.

In court documents ahead of Wednesday’s hearing, Mr Rosengart said Mr Spears had "crossed unfathomable lines" by reportedly monitoring his daughter’s calls, emails and texts, including messages to her previous lawyer, and having a listening device placed in her bedroom.

The claims were made in the New York Times documentary, Controlling Britney Spears, released last week. Ms Spears appeared perplexed by the film.

"I must say I scratched my head a couple of times!!! I really try to disassociate myself from the drama!!!" she commented in an Instagram post on Monday. "Number one, that’s the past!!! Number two, can the dialogue get any classier???"

Mr Spears has said his actions were within his authority as a conservator and has rejected calls to step aside, saying an experienced hand is needed during a transition period from the conservatorship to a regular business manager.

The hearing comes two weeks after the singer announced her engagement to Sam Asghari, 27, her personal trainer boyfriend of more than four years. They hope to marry soon after negotiating a prenuptial agreement. 

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