A California judge ordered a professional evaluation of Britney Spears to determine the parameters of her conservatorship. Spears’ father, Jamie, has controlled the affairs of Spears since her public breakdown in 2007. Fans of Spears protested outside the court with “Free Britney” signs.
A lot has changed for Britney Spears since she famously shaved her head at a tattoo parlor in 2007. She has released multiple albums and hosted a successful show in Las Vegas. For the past 12 years, her mental health appeared stable with help from doctors and her family.
However, her father’s illness in the fall of 2018 caused considerable stress for the pop star. Jamie Spears was hospitalized and almost died. For months, he battled to regain his health. At the same time, TMZ reported that medications used to treat Spears’ bi-polar disorder stopped working.
By January 2019, Spears announced on Instagram she was postponing her Las Vegas show to deal with her family issues. Then in early April, she checked herself into a mental health treatment center to work through the stress.
Her placement in the program sparked a large conspiracy that her conservatorship forced her into the facility. Fans began a #FreeBritney hashtag on social media. Many believed the facility was holding her against her will.
In a usual move, Spears responded to her fans by asserting she was doing ok. She told fans she needed time to sort through the stress she had been under with her family.
Photos began circulating of Spears in late April on a day trip with her boyfriend. Multiple outlets reported she was given a day pass to spend time with family. In the photos, Spears looked disoriented and tired.
Then on Friday, a scheduled hearing to review her conservatorship took an interesting turn. Spears’ mother Lynn Spears requested that the court allow her to be legally informed about her daughter’s conservatorship. Since the court ordered the guardianship for Spears in 2008, Lynn Spears has played no legal role in her daughter’s care.
During this hearing, the judge took an unusual step and ordered a 730 evaluation of Spears. Per California law, a 730 assessment is typically ordered during divorce cases for minor children. However, a stipulation in the law allows individuals to be evaluated for mental health issues.
In this case, the evaluation could be to assess Spears’ current mental health status and aid the court in making decisions about her conservatorship.
While the 730 seems like an odd choice, Spears’ conservatorship means the court has determined she is unable to manage her well-being due to physical or mental limitations. In many ways, Spears is considered incapable of managing her own life. Thus a 730 could be an appropriate evaluation for the court.
With news about Spears mental health declining, there is a push by her fans to remove her conservatorship. However, a judge would never make that determination without a proper evaluation. Additionally, a judge would need to see a marked improvement in her mental health.
Even though Spears’ father manages her conservatorship, the court manages all the details of the case. The court determines the rules, who is assigned as the guardian, and ensures all parties are working toward the best interest of the individual in need of care.With this in mind, an evaluation by a court-appointed mental health professional is appropriate. The judge will be able to receive an unbiased assessment of Spears’ current mental health. Additionally, the information can help the judge determine what steps should be taken to help her moving forward.
While many want to free Spears from the court’s control, there is a reason she is in their care. A court determined her mental health issues are so debilitating she cannot function without help from others. For more than 12 years, this conservatorship has enabled her to receive proper doctor support, help with finances, and management in her day to day life.
Many only see Spears as this bigger than life superstar. However, she is a complex woman that lives with a mental illness that the court has deemed too severe to manage on her own. Managing a severe mental illness poses challenges to the individual and their family.
Individuals on the outside want her to be “free,” but ultimately a court needs to make that call. No one would ever want to see Spears go through the dramatic and public breakdown she had in 2007 again. Because of her conservatorship in place, her current mental health crisis resulted in her receiving proper care. Which is why the court has her in the conservatorship, to begin with.
Before we start chanting “Free Britney,” remember that she’s battling a severe disease that needs close monitoring. None of us know what she faces on a daily basis. The court is working with her best interests in mind. We must trust the court to make the right decisions.
When the hearing was over, Spears walked out of the court barefoot. This could be a small view into where her mental health is right now. We will have to see what the evaluation uncovers.
No matter what happens with Spears, her story is a good reminder that not all diseases are visible. Just because she’s made a fortune dancing and signing does not mean she’s immune to mental illness. We should all stop worrying about her being “free,” and focus on her getting better and stable.
*Katie Joy is a columnist and hosts Without A Crystal Ball on Patheos Non-Religious Channel. She writes articles on parenting, disability advocacy, debunking pseudoscience, atheism, and crimes against women and children.
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