Like many Nashvillians, I have been caught up in the ongoing drama of the Britney Spears conservatorship in California.
There are many things about it that we may never know, especially Spears’ medical information, which is confidential. But there are several disturbing facts and allegations that might make you worry that something like this could happen to you or your family.
First among these, is the appearance of a competent, talented young woman who has been able to make millions of dollars over the course of the 12-year conservatorship, none of which she controls.
Instead, her father, who has no background in finances has overseen the money, at times without the assistance of a bank or other financial manager.
Secondly, there is the idea that a woman who appears that competent would not be able to get out of a conservatorship and the control over her person and property that a conservatorship involves.
Finally, there is the disturbing allegation that the conservator has controlled Spears’ decisions about her fertility, refusing to allow her to see a doctor to have her IUD removed when she wants to have a child.
Could this play out under Tennessee law?
Although most conservatorships involve older people who are no longer able to manage their health care decisions or finances, that is not always the case.
The conservator over the person makes decisions about medical examinations, treatment, therapies, and end of life decisions.
The conservator over the property makes decisions about property, purchases, contracts, lawsuits, and other financial matters.
The court has an obligation to impose the least restrictive alternative, that is to take away rights from the respondent only to the extent necessary.
No rights can be taken away without the notarized statement and sometimes testimony of a doctor or, where necessary, a psychologist, who has seen the respondent in the last 90 days. The doctor or psychologist must set out a diagnosis and other medical information and affirm that the respondent needs a conservator over person, property, or both.
A conservatorship can be ended whenever the court finds that the respondent is no longer disabled or that the conservator has failed to perform their duties or act in the best interest of the respondent.
The respondent can get the court to consider termination by sending a letter or even by letting the court know through some sort of oral communication. In other words, a respondent could just show up and ask that the court terminate the conservatorship.
Although I’m not familiar with a conservator controlling the fertility of a respondent, I can imagine that happening in some situations.
All the same, that would be unusual and, for a woman as seemingly competent as Spears, I believe that kind of decision would be highly scrutinized by the court.
We have two very good judges in Nashville who handle conservatorships—Randall Kennedy and Amanda McClendon.
They are careful and empathetic with people in these situations.
All in all, we can rest easy in Nashville that the Brittany Spears situation won’t happen here. There are many legal safeguards and good people involved.