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Britney Spears' Father Agrees To Step Down As Her Conservator

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

James Spears, the father of pop star Britney Spears, has agreed to step down as the conservator of his daughter's estate. Now, this is huge news in Britney Spears' long fight to get out of her 13-year conservatorship, under which the singer has had no control over her finances or her personal life. It's coming after her lawyer, Mathew Rosengart, filed a petition for James Spears' removal. NPR arts reporter Andrew Limbong is here with us now to tell us more. Hey, Andrew.

ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.

CHANG: All right, so what's the latest?

LIMBONG: So James Spears just filed some legal paperwork in the courts today saying he's willing to step down as a conservator of Britney's estate. You know, that is the person who controls all of her money. Through a lawyer, he says that there isn't any legal ground for him to be doing this, but it's not great for them to be arguing, you know, in public. Quote, "Even as Mr. Spears is the unremitting target of unjustified attacks, he does not believe that a public battle with his daughter over his continuing service as her conservator would be in her best interests."

CHANG: Huh.

LIMBONG: Yeah.

CHANG: OK, this is something of a big shift from James Spears, right?

LIMBONG: Yeah, it is - sort of, right? So he's long been defiant that his being in control over Britney's finances is in Britney's best interest. In fact, he makes that clear through this latest filing, that he's presenting himself as a father that's always looked out for her and that he's not even sure that stepping down as conservator is in her best interests.

CHANG: OK.

LIMBONG: I just want to - yeah, I just want to read a little bit of the introduction from today's filing for a bit here. Quote, "For the greater part of the past 13 years, the conservatorship has worked as intended. And at every step along the way, Mr. Spears has offered his daughter love, support and encouragement, both as her conservator and as her father," end quote.

CHANG: And there's probably going to be some dispute about that.

LIMBONG: Yeah.

CHANG: But has there been any comment so far from Britney's team?

LIMBONG: Yeah. In a statement, Britney Spears' lawyer Mathew Rosengart called this a step towards justice. And, you know, they're pleased at the decision, but they don't let - intend to let him off the hook. They say that they look forward to continuing their investigation over his contact and others over the past 13 years while he reaped, quote, "millions of dollars from his daughter's estate." And they look forward to taking his sworn deposition in the near future.

And so you got to remember that, like, this ball started rolling ever since that day back in June when Britney Spears first spoke publicly about what her life was like under the conservatorship. And, you know, since then, she's made it clear that she was always scared of her father, that she found him intimidating and wanted him to actually be charged for abusing the conservatorship. She said a lot about what she wants out of her future, but probably the clearest, most repeated thing she says is that she wants her father out of her life.

CHANG: Yeah. All right, so then where do the legal proceedings go from here?

LIMBONG: So there's nothing that can happen without the judge's approval, right? So, you know, the judge has to put her stamp of approval on this, and then James Spears, in the document, says he can then start transitioning to a different conservator of her estate. You know, that's the important part. In the court documents, James Spears says he intends to work with a court to assure an orderly transition to a new conservator, right? There's no indication of how long he intends for that to take, right? There are pending - he says that there are pending accounts to look over before anything changes hands.

And it's also, I think, important to remember that this is just the money side of Britney's conservatorship, right? She still has a different conservator named Jodi Montgomery who's in charge of watching over all of her personal decisions. But Britney Spears seems to have a better relationship with her, at least, you know, on paper.

CHANG: All right, to be continued.

LIMBONG: Yeah.

CHANG: That is NPR arts reporter Andrew Limbong. Thank you, Andrew.

LIMBONG: Thanks, Ailsa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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