On September 30, 2021, Britney Spears won her freedom after 13 years under the ironclad legal conservatorship of her father, James Spears. The court ruling endorsed what the #FreeBritney movement had been saying for years: that the singer’s father had taken advantage of his daughter’s psychiatric admission in 2008 to take over her life and fortune - valued at $60 million when the guardianship came to an end - and control every aspect of her existence. But James Spears has a very different version of events.
In an interview with UK tabloid The Daily Mail, Spears’ father says that the guardianship saved his daughter’s life, and without it she would not have been able to see her two children again after her divorce. “For protecting her, and also protecting the kids, conservatorship was a great tool. Without it, I don’t think she would have got the kids back,” he said. Spears has been the target of plenty of criticism over his daughter’s legal situation, not only from the singer herself but also the #FreeBritney social movement, which pushed for a change in public perception over the controversial guardianship, which he has described as “a joke run by conspiracy theorists.”
Britney Spears had a very public crisis in 2007 when she divorced her then-husband, dancer Kevin Federline, after three years of marriage, which produced two children. She shaved her head, hit a photographer’s car with an umbrella and was hospitalized for substance abuse. She subsequently lost custody of her children after a period of joint custody with Federline, but in September 2019, her access was reduced to 30% after the minors - Sean Preston, now 17, and Jayden James, 16 - accused her father of having assaulted them when they were meant to be under her care.
“I miss my two boys really, really bad,” James Spears told the Mail. “I do. You know, we were very, very close. They were around that age where you could start having a good time with them. But they were developing a mind of their own. God makes things happen for a reason. I don’t know what that reason is but it’s been a tough three years without them. The family’s a mess. All we can do is keep praying.”
Spears also explained the circumstances under which the guardianship began, justifying his tight control of the singer’s finances by saying she had squandered her fortune. “She was broke. She had no money whatsoever. The conservatorship set a resource where she could get back financially.”
The singer’s father also spoke about the insults and accusations leveled at him by his daughter on social media over the past few months, describing it as “tough.”
“All I can say is that most people don’t have a clue what the truth is,” he said. “Her lawyer doesn’t have a clue what the truth is. The media has not heard the truth. They’ve heard the allegations from Britney. I don’t mind taking that beating because I know it’s not true, and because I don’t want to start something else. For my daughter to end up going further down the hole than she had been.”
For her part, the singer has used her year and a half of new-found freedom to record a song with Elton John, marry Iranian-American actor and model Sam Asghari and travel the world. Spears remains at odds with her father and is the middle of a court battle over the consequences of her guardianship, and also with her sister, brother and mother for their roles in the process. She is also, for now, estranged from her two children. “I just want her to get better mentally. When she gets better, I really want to see her again,” said Jayden James in a recent interview.