Many people recall Britney Spears' public unraveling in 2008. Fans, critics, and tabloid consumers alike were all shocked by images of the pop singer shaving her head and driving with one of her then-toddler children in her lap.
In the decade since, her "comeback" and ability to talk about her struggles with mental health issues has won her new fans and renewed fortune.
What many people don't realize, despite all appearances that she is back in control of her life, is that since 2008, her father, Jamie Spears, has been serving as her conservator. That has led a large contingent of Britney's fans to start the "#FreeBritney" hashtag to advocate that she be "set free" and allowed to live her life on her terms.
Britney being under a conservatorship means that, despite being an adult, her father is in charge of most of her affairs and assets.
A court will appoint a conservator (or guardian, depending on the state) to oversee a person's financial and sometimes health care decisions when that person cannot make them themselves. A conservator's responsibilities can include:
A person who does not want to be under a conservator can sue in an attempt to prove to the court that they are capable of making independent, sound decisions.
Despite an active social media presence that portrays her as a fun-loving, active mom and performer, Britney has made no statements about wanting her legal arrangement changed.
In fact, she insisted to fans in an Instagram post that "I am strong, and stand up for what I want."
But Britney's abrupt cancellation of her long-running Las Vegas concert residency sent speculation swirling that she is not in control of her affairs. In fact, her father can restrict her visitors and controls all financial details of her life.
This news came on the heels of Britney's co-conservator, an L.A. attorney, resigning, leaving her father as the sole conservator.
Legal observers have pointed out that it looks strange for a 37-year-old hard-working pop star to have a conservator, but, as with most celebrity matters, there is often much more lurking behind that curtain.
With a large estate valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars, Spears is likely faced with the constant threat of financial exploitation. And there is no motivation or incentive for a judge to unjustly keep Britney in her arrangement.
As one lawyer familiar with the matter put it: "The courts will do everything they can to ensure that a person in not conserved unless they really, really need to be."
In short, there is likely a good reason the conservatorship remains in place.