When care turns into a legal issue -- How do conservatorships work?

When care turns into a legal issue -- How do conservatorships work?
When care turns into a legal issue -- How do conservatorships work?

DETROIT – Britney Spears told a judge at a dramatic hearing Wednesday she wants an end to the conservatorship that has controlled her life and money for 13 years.

Read: Britney Spears tells judge: ‘I want my life back’

Whether you’re a fan or not, it’s hard to ignore the personal family drama around the pop star. The 39-year-old singer spoke out in court for the first time Wednesday when she asked a judge to end the conservatorship that has been controlling her life for nearly 15 years.

She said the control is threatening and abusive and claims she is not able to get married, have more children nor hire an attorney to help her.

How do conservatorships work? Is it possible to find a way out once the court gets involved?

Shelby Township attorney and conservator consultant Alan Polack said most conservatorships are people trying to do well by their loved ones, but people only hear about the bad ones that make the news.

There is a difference between a court appointed guardian and conservator. A guardian handles the physical body -- medical, housing, placement -- while the conservator handles the money.

In the Metro Detroit, the conservator actually has to report to the court and file accountings, show receipts, hours served and produce a paper trail, which is why the fact that Spears’ conservator father was getting paid $16,000 a month is so shocking.

Spears also claimed of Svengali-style control over her body and medications. Unlike Michigan, in California the court can appoint conservator over business, physical and personal matters.

Kerri Kasem, daughter of radio icon Casey Kasem, is an advocate for more court accountability in these matters. She hosts the podcast Bitter Blood, which chronicles her families bitter fight over the care of her late, ailing father. She has been watching the Brittany saga while nursing her own pain.

Read: Children of Casey Kasem settle lawsuit with widow over death

She said she hopes that if people learn anything from this, it’s to make a plan.

Spears’ attorney will have to file an official petition to end the conservatorship. It is expected to return to court July 14.

You can watch Paula Tutman’s full story in the video above.

About the Author:

Paula Tutman is an Emmy award-winning journalist who came to Local 4 in 1992. She's a Peace Corps alum who spent her early childhood living in Sierra Leone, West Africa and Tanzania and East Africa.