In a raw and emotional address, Britney Spears on Wednesday asked a judge to end the conservatorship that has controlled her money and affairs since 2008.
Since Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny did not make a last-minute decision Wednesday to seal the proceedings, the pop star's words were heard in open court for the first time in the 13-year conservatorship.
She said it has been too long since she's been in control of her own finances, and that she would like to sue her family to once again gain autonomy.
"I just want my life back," Spears said in her address to the court. "It's been 13 years and it's enough.
"I truly believe this conservatorship is abusive."
'I want to be able to share my story'
Spears, who spoke remotely, asked for the hearing so she could address the court directly.
Her court-appointed lawyer, Samuel Ingham III, made the request at an April 28 hearing. He gave no indication of what the pop star wanted to say.
But in recent court filings, Spears has sought 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.
In her statements on Wednesday, Britney said she spoke because she wanted the ability to share her story publicly instead of having her interactions with her family — and the conditions of her conservatorship — be such a "hush hush secret."
"It's not fair that they're telling lies about me openly," she said. "They do interviews to anyone they want on news stations — my own family doing interviews — and talking about the situation, and making me feel so stupid, and I can't say one thing."
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In past filings, Spears said through Ingham that she fears her father, James Spears, and would not end a two and a half year pause on her career as long as he has control over it.
The judge declined to remove James Spears entirely, but he now plays a smaller role, serving as co-conservator of his daughter's finances along with estate management firm the Bessemer Trust.
In 2019, he relinquished his role as conservator over his daughter's life choices to a court-appointed professional.
In a statement given through his lawyer at Wednesday's hearing, James Spears said that he was sorry to see his daughter in such pain, and said that he "misses her very much."
Spears tells court she wants a baby
Sarah Wenz, a lawyer with the firm Fox Rothschild in Miami, told CBC News that the nature of Britney Spears's conservatorship is highly abnormal, being in place while Spears has continued her career as a high-profile singer.
"It would be highly abnormal to have a person who is under conservatorship that could still go present at award shows, who could do a Las Vegas residence," Wenz said.
"That's one of the things that's so unique about this case ... we don't know that there's been any sort of permanent diagnosis that would indicate that she couldn't resume control of her life."
Karen Bliss, the Canadian correspondent for Billboard magazine, also noted the unique nature of Britney's conservatorship in light of her work as a performer and even choreographer.
"It's very unusual," she told CBC News. "There are musicians who are heavily addicted to alcohol and drugs who don't have a parent overseeing their funding and what they do every week."
Addressing the court, Spears said those checks and balances even extend to her own body. The singer stated she wants to get married and have a baby, but currently does not have permission to go to the doctor to remove her IUD.
She has been dating her current boyfriend, Sam Asghari, since 2016.
"I deserve to have a life," Spears said.
Also on Wednesday, Spears said that she has largely faked her happiness in the past, hoping that it would help her improve her own emotional state.
The reality, she said, is much darker.
"I'm traumatized. I'm not happy. I can't sleep," she said. "I'm so angry. It's insane."
First public address by Spears
The pop star has spoken in court about 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 since requested greater transparency from the court, and Penny has allowed far more to remain public.
The singer has never asked the court to end the conservatorship entirely, though she has emphasized in documents that she reserves the right to do so at any time.
It was put in place as she underwent a mental health crisis in 2008. She has credited it with saving her from financial ruin and keeping up her status as a top pop star.
Her father and his attorneys have emphasized that she and her fortune, which court records put at more than $50 million US, remain vulnerable to fraud and manipulation.
Under the law, the burden would be on Spears to prove she is competent to be released and free to make her own choices.