Britney Spears has spoken —and she wants to end her “abusive” conservatorship. So what’s next? And how long would it take to #FreeBritney, if that’s even what the court decides to do?
Wednesday’s hearing “was only a status conference to hear Britney’s statement to the court,” California-based family law attorney Christopher C. Melcher of Walzer Melcher explains to Yahoo Entertainment.
In other words, it doesn’t immediately end anything, including her father Jamie Spears’ involvement as a co-conservator of her estate.
“The next step is for Britney to file a petition to terminate the conservatorship,” Melcher says. “Britney’s court-appointed attorney,” Samuel Ingham III, “may not be on board with that approach, but can be directed to file the petition.”
But the wheels of justice turn slowly.
“If Britney files a petition to end the conservatorship, it will take months to resolve,” Melcher continues. “It could drag on to next year.”
And while Britney said she wants to end the conservatorship without an evaluation by a mental health professional — “to be sat in a room with people four hours a day,” is how she described the process — the court will still want one.
“The court can order the evaluation but cannot force her to comply,” Melcher says. “If she refuses, as she indicated in her statement, the court can consider that in ruling on whether to terminate the conservatorship.”
Also of importance related to the evaluation, “Even if Britney is evaluated and the evaluator concludes the conservatorship is needed, the court,” under Judge Brenda Penny, “need not accept that opinion. The court can terminate the conservatorship on Britney’s testimony and the other evidence it receives. It should be obvious to the court whether a person needs a conservatorship,” as they are reserved for the vulnerable and incapacitated, like an elderly person with dementia or someone with severe addiction issues — “so the court might be persuaded by Britney’s testimony that one is no longer needed.”
In addition to the evaluation part, there would be a hearing to terminate the conservatorship, which will take time to even get scheduled.
In that, “Britney would testify and the court can assess her functioning,” Melcher says. “Other witnesses can speak to incidents they observed that might justify the conservatorship. Conversely, Britney may call witnesses to show that she has acted perfectly normal in their presence.”
He adds, “Court process is slow because each side gets a chance to be heard. There won’t be a quick ending to this.”
Even pushing out Jamie, who Britney said “threatened” her and has mistreated her since the conservatorship was established under his control 2008, is a process that requires a hearing.
And if her court-appointed attorney Ingham is replaced, that will delay things, too. (Britney said during the hearing that she isn’t even allowed to pick her own lawyer. That led Ingham to say that he served at the pleasure of the court, and would step aside if asked.)
Britney’s 20-minute speech was very impactful because it puts to rest a lot of speculation. The world now knows what she wants — and she wants out.
However, “the statement can cut both ways,” Melcher says. “The court knows directly from Britney how she feels about the conservatorship, and that Britney wants it terminated. She could not have been clearer. But the court also heard Britney make allegations that will be tested in a hearing over the termination of the conservatorship. If those statements were inaccurate, the court could infer that Britney is not processing information correctly and find her an unreliable witness.”
He continues, “Britney’s statements were powerful and reflect how she feels. She is understandably upset at what is happening to her. It would have been better for Britney to have presented a more measured statement that articulated her desire to end the conservatorship, while acknowledging the struggles she had 13 years ago. Showing awareness of the problems that happened before could persuade the court that Britney no longer needs protection.”
The next hearing on the schedule is set for July 14 — it will cover accounting, the official appointment of Jodi Montgomery as conservator of her person and a petition.
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