LOS ANGELES - Britney Spears gave rare and candid remarks to the judge overseeing the ongoing battle in the conservatorship run by her father, which has controlled the 39-year-old pop star’s money and affairs since 2008.
"I’m not lying, I just want my life back," Spears told the Los Angeles Superior Court judge, Brenda Penny in a virtual court. "I want to end the conservatorship without being evaluated."
Spears called the conservatorship "abusive" and wanted to petition to end the arrangement.
"After I’ve told the whole world I’m okay, it’s a lie. I’m not happy, I can’t sleep, I’m depressed, I cry every day," Spears revealed.
"I'd like to be able to share my story with the world," she said. "I want to be able to be heard. By making me keep this in for so long, it's not good for my heart. It concerns me I'm not allowed to be able to heard. I have the right to use my voice. My attorney says I can't let the public know what they did to me... I shouldn't be able to be in a conservatorship. The laws need to change. Ma'am, I've worked since I was 17 years old. I can't go somewhere unless I meet someone every week in an office."
The singer blamed her ignorance for not understanding how to end the conservatorship herself.
"I truly believe this conservatorship is abusive. There are thousands of abusive conservatorships," Spears said. "I shouldn’t be in a conservatorship if I can work for myself and pay other people."
Britney Spears attends Sony Pictures' "Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood" Los Angeles Premiere on July 22, 2019, in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
The case has drawn interest from fans all over the world, many of which have helped spawn the so-called #FreeBritney movement in protest of the unusual legal arrangement. Those in the movement feel Spears is being controlled unfairly against her will and have gathered outside the courthouse in large numbers during hearings related to the case.
The pop star told the judge that her managers and family have forced her to see a therapist she did not approve and take medication, specifically lithium, that she did not want to take.
She criticized how her family, particularly her father Jamie Spears, has delt with the conservatorship.
"Not only did my family not do a God damn thing… my dad was all for it," she said. "He was the one who approved all of it. My whole family did nothing."
"I would honestly like to sue my family to be totally honest with you," Spears told the judge. "I’ve been so angry and I cry every day."
Spears compared her experience to sex trafficking, saying she has been made to work against her will. She also said the conservatorship has kept her from getting married and having another baby, which she would like to do in the future.
"It’s embarrassing and demoralizing what I’ve been through," Spears continued, also citing that her rehabilitation facility would watch her "change every day naked, morning, noon and night."
Spears’ requested to meet with a therapist once a week, not twice a week, and asked that a therapist come to her home for privacy.
Judge Penny acknowledged Spears’ remarks after she was finished speaking.
"I know that it took a lot of courage to say everything you had to say," Penny said, and noted that there are measures that need to be taken in order to try and get a conservatorship terminated.
After asking the court to recess so she could talk to her client, Vivian Thoreen, the lawyer representing Spears' father, Jamie, stated on his behalf, "He is sorry to see his daughter suffering and in so much pain. He loves his daughter and misses her very much."
Judge Penny said going forward, she is happy to place matters related to the conservatorship case on the calendar, but added that since Wednesday's hearing was a status hearing, Spears' attorney will still need to petition the court for any terms or changes related to the conservatorship.
Spears, who was scheduled to take part remotely, asked for the hearing in April so she could address the court directly. Her court-appointed attorney, Samuel Ingham III, made the request and gave no indication of what she planned to say.
But in recent court filings, Spears has sought to obtain a greater say over who runs the conservatorship and has asked that her father, who had extensive power over her life and money for most of its existence, be removed. Spears said through Ingham that she fears her father and would not end a 2 1/2-year pause on her career as long as he has control over it.
The judge has declined to remove Jamie entirely, though he now plays a smaller role. He serves as co-conservator of her finances along with estate management firm the Bessemer Trust, and in 2019 relinquished his role as conservator over his daughter's life choices to a court-appointed professional.
The singer has spoken in court in the conservatorship before, but the courtroom was always cleared and transcripts sealed. The last time she was known to have addressed the judge was in May 2019.
Spears has requested greater transparency from the court since then, and the Los Angeles judge has allowed far more to remain public.
A conservatorship is established when a person is considered to have a severely diminished mental capacity, and the court can step in and grant someone the power to make financial decisions and major life choices for them.
California law says a conservatorship, called a guardianship in some states, is justified for a "person who is unable to provide properly for his or her personal needs for physical health, food, clothing, or shelter," or for someone who is "substantially unable to manage his or her own financial resources or resist fraud or undue influence."
Prior to the Wednesday hearing, Britney Spears had never asked the court to end the conservatorship. In a recent court filing she said it "rescued her from a collapse, exploitation by predatory individuals and financial ruin" and made her "able to regain her position as a world-class entertainer."
But she has sought more say in who runs it, has emphasized that she reserves the right to seek to end it at any time and has welcomed the scrutiny of #FreeBritney fans.
The conservatorship was put in place as she underwent a mental health crisis in 2008. Her father and his attorneys have emphasized that she and her fortune, which court records put at more than $50 million, remain vulnerable to fraud and manipulation.
With her massive fortune, the court closely guards the inner workings of the legal arrangement — though some aspects have been revealed in documents.
The conservatorship has the power to restrict her visitors and arranges and oversees visits with her sons, ages 14 and 15; father Kevin Federline has full custody. It has the power to take out restraining orders in her name, which it has used more than once to keep away interlopers deemed shady. It also has the power to make her medical decisions and her business deals.
Legally, Spears can get married, but the conservatorship must approve it as with other major life decisions.
Under the law, the burden falls on Spears to prove she is competent to be released and free to make her own choices.
Wednesday’s hearing also comes a day after the New York Times reported on confidential 2016 court records obtained by the outlet revealing that Spears has expressed serious opposition to the conservatorship for years. Spears reportedly said the system held "too much control."
"She articulated she feels the conservatorship has become an oppressive and controlling tool against her," a court investigator wrote in the 2016 report, according to the Times.
Britney Spears has been on an indefinite work hiatus since early 2019. In an Instagram post last week, the pop star said she wasn’t sure if she will ever perform live again.
"I have no idea," she said, answering a fan who asked when she planned to take the stage. "I’m having fun right now. I’m in a transition in my life and I’m enjoying myself. So that's it."
Fans scrutinize her social media posts and public statements, trying to decipher her every word, dance move, outfit or shared meme amid the conservatorship battle. Key to the #FreeBritney movement were two women who in 2017 turned their hobby of picking apart Spears’ Instagram posts into a podcast called "Britney's ‘Gram."
Now, even minor hearings can bring dozens of protesters to the courthouse, carrying signs like "CONSERVATORSHIP IS SLAVERY" and "THIS IS TOXIC." Many say they relate to her struggles with mental health and the system. The movement, or at least its sentiments, has attracted her fellow celebrities, including Bette Midler, Miley Cyrus, Paris Hilton and Pitbull.
Jamie Spears has called the group "conspiracy theorists" and says those who shout "free Britney" don’t understand the situation.
This week, videos have surfaced on social media by fans in support of the artist.
A 2018 video of Britney Spears has surfaced on social media of the pop star saying she had a 102-degree fever during a show in New Jersey.
Footage captured by Zachary Gordon, who said he took it during Spears’s 2018 Piece of Me tour, shows Spears onstage.
"I’m about to pass out, I’m sick," Britney Spears says in the video. "I have actually a 102-degree fever right now."
The footage echoes complaints Spears made about her performance obligations under the court-appointed conservatorship of her father, Jamie Spears.
"Dear @britneyspears….I feel like we owe you an apology. We bought into the whole hype of BRITNEY the performer, without much consideration for how Britney Jean Spears, the person, was coping through each day. Looking back now, I remember you saying this in front of me," Gordon wrote.
"And I just thought ‘Wow, she’s such a trooper and cares so much to put on a show for her fans.’ Now I can see with clear eyes that this was a dig at the people controlling you, making you go onstage, performing under high powered lights, all while you had a high-grade fever," Gordon continued.
The court took a recess following Spears' remarks and then stopped the public audio feed of the proceedings, citing live tweets of hearing. The next court hearing in the case is set for July 14.
The Associated Press contributed.