Every day I help my clients financially plan for their futures, but there are people out there who unjustly are not afforded this basic right. The most high-profile example of this issue right now is Britney Spears, who (if somehow you haven’t heard already) has been in a contentious battle to end her father’s 13-year conservatorship that gives him broad control over her finances and daily life.
Since the court put the conservatorship in place in 2008, Britney has earned millions from a successful concert tour and residency in Las Vegas. And according to the New York Times, as conservator, her father earned 2.95 percent on her tour and 1.5 percent of gross revenues from her Vegas residency, the latter of which earned $138 million. On top of his commissions, he has been collecting a monthly salary of $16,000 plus a $2,000 monthly stipend for his office. As for Britney? She receives a weekly allowance of $2,000.
Conservatorships are not out of the ordinary. They are established for people who cannot make decisions in their own best interest due to a cognitive impairment. And maybe at the time that she was struggling, Britney needed a helping hand – but whether her father really needed full control over her entire life and finances (and whether he should still have this control) is what Britney is battling in court right now.
Whether or not you’ve followed Britney’s career, it’s plain to see that like most child stars, she has faced significant trauma throughout her life. Besides the typical high-stress issues celebrities have with paparazzi, Britney dealt with a very public custody battle over her sons and struggled with her mental health and substance abuse. All the while, the press relentlessly humiliated and abused her for years. It’s more than anyone should have to bear.
The fact of the matter is that Britney’s trauma should have been recognized over a decade ago and signaled more specialized, trauma-informed legal care for her. My friend and colleague, Dr. Laura McGuire, put it this way: “Britney made multiple statements that signaled she has not been treated in a trauma-informed manner. She mentioned that she has avoided court because the judge made her feel unheard and disbelieved. This is true for most survivors – they face such severe gaslighting from the courts that they see no use in trying to speak out again, even in the midst of current abuse.”
While it’s too late to change the original conservatorship ruling and the course of Britney’s life for the past 13 years, there is still time to provide the right kind of representation and care to her now and moving forward.
Trauma-informed legal care is not always immediately offered or available to survivors, which is why my team has been so outspoken about the necessity of it. In Britney’s case, a trauma-informed approach could make a world of a difference – her voice would be more readily heard, and the legal system would view her needs and goals and the wrongs done to her through the lens of trauma – which would in turn facilitate a more meaningful decision in her case.
Trauma-informed care is something we can all apply in our careers and daily lives. I encourage you to visit the National Center for Equity and Agency to learn more and join us in the movement to better respond to and care for those who have faced trauma in their lives.
A West Point graduate where he served as captain and military aviator, John Bair continues his commitment to our country through his efforts within the settlement planning industry. He has represented families of victims lost in the Flight 3407 crash, offered pro bono services to the families of 9/11 victims and drafted the first consumer protection bill for plaintiffs (H.R. 3699).