Framing Britney Spears, the newest standalone documentary in FX's series The New York Times Presents, examines the conservatorship Britney Spears has been under since 2008. This is essentially a legal guardianship that gives someone else control of her finances and major life decisions; in this case it's Spears' father, Jamie, and a co-conservator (previously lawyer Andrew Wallet but currently Spears' longtime "care manager," Jodi Montgomery).
Per BBC, Jamie was authorized by the California Superior Court to take over Britney's business affairs amid her worsening mental health. After divorcing Kevin Federline in 2007 and losing custody of her two children, Britney began behaving erratically in the public eye. Most famously, she made headlines for shaving her head and hitting a paparazzo's car with an umbrella. After a three-hour stand-off with police, during which she refused to surrender her sons, Britney was placed in psychiatric care and the conservatorship was enacted.
In the 13 years since, Jamie has been in control of Britney's money, career, and even personal visitations. Throughout that time, Britney has released three albums and done a Las Vegas residency. But supporters of the #FreeBritney movement have questioned if that was of Britney's own volition or at the behest of her dad. Britney's parents divorced in 2002, and, according to The New York Times, she was still estranged from her father when the conservatorship was put in place. This has led some fans to question whether stepping into the role was an opportunistic move by Jamie to financially benefit from his daughter's career (per the Times, he was awarded 1.5% of the gross revenues from Britney's Las Vegas residency as well as a $130,000 salary).
Jamie has denied those claims. In an August interview with the New York Post, he said the #FreeBritney movement was "a joke" and that "all these conspiracy theorists don’t know anything." He also asserted that he wasn't skimming any money from Britney and has to "report every nickel and dime spent to the court" each year. “I love my daughter,” he added. “I love all my kids. But this is our business. It’s private.”
Still, concerns about how much control Britney has over her career remain. In 2019, Britney canceled her Las Vegas residency, citing Jamie's poor health after he "almost died" from a ruptured colon. "I don’t even know where to start with this, because this is so tough for me to say," she wrote in a Jan. 4, 2019 Instagram post. "I will not be performing my new show Domination. I’ve been looking forward to this show and seeing all of you this year, so doing this breaks my heart. However, it’s important to always put your family first."
In September 2019, Jamie temporarily relinquished his powers over the conservatorship to Montgomery due to "personal health reasons." A source then claimed to Us Weekly in August 2020 that "Britney does want the conservatorship of her as a person to end, but she was concerned that Jamie could attempt to have the temporary conservator [Montgomery] removed." The source went on to say that "Britney and her dad have a complicated relationship," and over time, "Britney began to resent her dad" for being her conservator.
In a court filing on Aug. 17, 2020, Britney's attorney Samuel D. Ingham III said that Britney “is strongly opposed to having [Jamie] return” and prefers that Montgomery permanently replace him. But per the Associated Press, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny failed to suspend Jamie's conservatorship on Nov. 10, 2020. She said she would consider future petitions for his suspension or removal. “My client [Britney] has informed me that she is afraid of her father,” Ingham told her. “She will not perform again if her father is in charge of her career.”
The legal battle over Britney's conservatorship continues to this day. In December 2020, Jamie claimed to CNN that he hasn't spoken to his daughter since August, but said, "I love my daughter and I miss her very much." He added, "When a family member needs special care and protection, families need to step up, as I have done for the last 12 plus years."