Untangling the Latest Britney Spears Drama: Dad, Kids, Kevin Federline and the Legal Decision That Keeps on Giving

Shades of 2008 as Jamie Spears has stepped down as conservator after his ex-son-in-law accused him of child abuse, just months after Britney spent time in treatment to tend to her mental health

By Natalie Finn Sep 10, 2019 5:50 PMTags

Wait, it's 2019. Why is this still happening?

"This," that is, being fresh drama in the realm of Britney Spears' conservatorship, which this time was preceded by Kevin Federline accusing Spears' father of physically abusing their son Sean. As of Monday, Jamie Spears, who has been in charge of his daughter's financial, legal and career decisions, as well as her medical care, since the beginning of 2008, has been replaced as Britney's personal conservator.

Jamie, who suffered health problems that prompted Britney to suspend her Las Vegas residency (and her career in general) earlier this year, requested to step down at least until Jan. 20, 2020.

Jodi Montgomery, Spears' current care manager, was appointed temporary conservator in his absence.

Meanwhile, Britney Spears is going to be 38 in December, she's worth upward of $50 million, her children are teenagers now, she's been divorced from K-Fed for 12 years, she's been dating Sam Asghari since 2016 and her self-awareness game on Instagram is top-notch. So...why are there still issues regarding oversight of her affairs?

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Needless to say, a bizarre confluence of events has led up to this point.

It turns out that Federline, as TMZ first reported last week, has actually had 70-percent custody of sons Sean, who'll be 14 on Saturday, and Jayden, who turns 13 on Friday, since August 2018—but the arrangement was finalized last month after a year-long trial period. The former spouses and Chaotic co-stars—who at one point shared custody 50-50—have seemingly been getting along as well as any two exes whose whirlwind marriage imploded after two years, seeing each other at the kids' soccer games and other family friendly activities.

Then Federline, who last year requested an increase in child support from the monthly $20,000 he was getting, reported Jamie to authorities for allegedly crossing a line with Sean during an argument last month at his house—an incident that Britney duly told him about when it happened.

Larry Busacca/WireImage.com

Sean wasn't injured, but a source told E! News that Jamie "made contact" with him.

"Britney was very upset with her dad and left with the boys," the source shared, noting that Spears would never condone any sort of corporal discipline. "Britney had to explain to Kevin what happened," the insider added, "and he felt they had no choice but to go to the police. Kevin wants to protect his boys."

In order to avoid the need for an evidentiary hearing, Federline secured a temporary restraining order preventing contact between Jamie and his grandsons for the time being, making it impossible for Jamie to oversee the kids' welfare—which has also been part of his responsibilities as a salaried conservator all these years.

"It's best that he steps down," a source explained to E! News when Jamie filed the paperwork to remove himself. "There could be charges filed against him and this was a proactive move. Britney is very upset and fearful of what's going on. It's causing her a lot of anxiety. She's still very upset with Jamie and is freaking out about losing custody of her boys."

Longtime Federline attorney Mark Vincent Kaplan told E! earlier this month that his client "in no way" wants to stop Spears from being with the kids, but the terms of the 70-30 arrangement "are reflecting what Kevin believes is in the children's best interest."

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So this year hasn't exactly gotten any easier for Spears as it's gone along.

"How good am I???" she inquired on Instagram a couple days ago, captioning a note that read "all the good ones are a little crazy."


With her dad's illness weighing heavily on her, Spears checked into treatment in March to get a handle on her mental health—and rumors that Jamie forcibly put her in a facility led to a go-round for the hashtag #FreeBritney, shades of 2008 when Spears tried to resist her parents stepping in after a year-long decline in her emotional well-being that resulted in two involuntary hospitalizations and the appointment of Jamie and attorney Andrew M. Wallet as co-conservators.

"Britney decided to do this on her own," a source close to the "Stronger" singer assured E! News in April. "It had a lot to do with the stress of her father, but both Jamie and Britney are doing much better. It's the hope that in the next week or so everything will be more stabilized, but she'll be at this wellness facility for a few weeks."

Relations between Spears and her father were strained for some time, but Lynne Spears praised her ex-husband (and Federline, who had been granted full custody of Sean and Jayden in October 2007) for stepping up when Britney was recovering.

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"Moms always give in to their kids because we're softies, and what Britney needed at the time was the stronger person," Lynne recalled to the Daily Mail. She had her reservations at first, "but Jamie's really doing well with Britney, and I must give him credit for that."

In the 2008 MTV and Sky TV documentary Britney: For the Record, Spears says, "If I wasn't under the restraints that I'm under right now, you know, with all the lawyers and doctors and people analyzing me every day, all that kind of stuff—like if that wasn't there, I'd feel so liberated, and feel like myself. I'm kind of stuck in this place and it's like, how do you deal? You just cope, and that's what I do."

But she came bounding back all the same, even if, as she put it, she felt like an "old fart" at 30. Manager Larry Rudolph, not allowed legally to discuss the particulars of the conservatorship, told Rolling Stone in 2011, "The only thing I can say is, in a general sense, there's a stability in her life right now that I think is a positive thing for her."

Denise Truscello

It was impossible to predict what would happen in a year, let alone 10. 

For all appearances' sake, Spears returned swiftly from a scandal that could have easily derailed a less beloved performer. She recorded, toured, was a judge on The X Factor, dated a handful of guys, got engaged, got unengaged, earned millions, made countless trips to Target and the Cheesecake Factory, and in 2014 set up shop at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. She was also shielded from a lot of the business negotiations and legal headaches that go with being a lucrative, world-famous brand.

"I'm in a real good place in my life," Spears told People in 2015. "I'm the happiest I've ever been." In 2016 she signed a deal to extend her residency for two years worth a reported $35 million.

"Britney plays off energy," Felicia Culotta, Spears' longtime VIP coordinator who oversaw meet-and-greets, backstage tours and other perks that a deluxe package entailed, told the New York Times in 2016, explaining that the veteran entertainer was actually quite shy. "If you go in scared of her, she is going to be scared of you. So don't be scared of her. She's very normal."

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But as 2018 rolled around, 10 years since the conservatorship was first implemented, though there was a lot of talk of "this might be the year it ends!" there was actually no evident movement in that direction.

And then Jamie Spears got sick in October, suffering a ruptured colon which required multiple surgeries and a long period of recuperation.

And then Britney, explaining on Instagram that she was taking "a little 'me time,'" checked into treatment, sparking concern from Lynne Spears, among others, as to whether her mental-health care had been sufficient up to that point. An evaluation was ordered and, according to TMZ, was due to be turned in to the court next week.

Further complicating matters: Dr. Timothy Benson, a psychiatrist who had been monitoring Spears' care, died suddenly of a brain aneurysm on Aug. 24. So more change is coming no matter what.

Matt Baron/Shutterstock

Very different from a decade ago, however, is that now Spears has had the stalwart support of Sam Asghari through all the tumult. As a model and personal trainer he has to focus on working out and eating right, and he has become Spears' partner in wellness as well as romance.

"It isn't weakness, it's a sign of absolute strength, people should only be inspired by this, at least I am," he wrote on social media when she sought treatment.

In an appearance on The Doctors that aired Monday, the 25-year-old whipped up peach steak with asparagus, a dish he says is one of Britney's favorites.

In fact, when they first met when he was cast in her "Slumber Party" video in 2016, they bonded over food, both being big sushi fans.

Then they started texting and, Asghari told Entertainment Tonight last week, "next thing you know, [we're] just like a normal couple." (Normal in that they made their red-carpet debut as a couple at the Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood premiere in July.)

"What I love the most about my relationship is the fact that it's so normal," he continued. "It's not glamorous or anything. She inspires me in my work and I can give so much to her by going to the gym, by going to work, by having a balanced life. We can get inspired by each other here and there and really grow with each other."

"I can't believe I wake up every morning to this man," Spears recently shared on Instagram as Asghari made breakfast.

"I think it's great," he said on The Doctors about their mutual commitment to a healthy lifestyle. "We inspire each other. She inspires me on a daily basis when she works out." 

Moreover, Asghari calls Spears his "lioness."

"I watch a lot of Discovery Channel," he explained. "The female lion inspires the male lion all the time...A lioness is a strong, strong animal."