Britney Spears

Norman Scott/

Britney is back and we're gonna see her on X Factor! So why do her loved ones still have legal control over her life?
—D. Haupt, via the inbox

Look, if I'd once shaved my head in front of millions of people, and then suddenly had $15 million at my disposal, I might want my Dad and fiancé to take over my checkbook too, lest I spend it all on hair extensions and dayglo dresses with alien shoulder pads.

There's a very tight publicity bubble around Spears, even 5 years after the onset of her well-documented troubles. But here's what I can tell you:

Britney is many things at the moment: back on her feet, happily engaged, undoubtedly successful in the money department, apparently fit and eager to work.

However, she is still, legally, under the thumb of her father, Jamie, and her intended, Jason Trawick. According to attorneys, courts do not agree to such relationships lightly; likely, this B!tch is told, Britney still needs some help taking care of her own affairs. In general, such needs most often stem from some sort of health issue, either mental, physical or both. Britney herself seemed to have warmed to the arrangement as it has developed.

Spears herself hasn't said much about the conservatorship, which was established in 2008—shortly after the singer was put in a gurney and hospitalized for undisclosed reasons—and which covers everything from the structure of her finances to personal health care decisions.

In her memoir, mother Lynn Spears blamed the bulk of her daughter's struggle on post-partum depression, but when asked directly what the problem might be, the pop star herself has evaded the question, even in friendly interviews such as a sit-down with Glamour in 2009.

Attorneys tell me it's entirely possible for somebody to work as much as Spears and still be under conservatorship.

"The disabilities that have required a conservator to begin with [often] don't go away," explains Irwin Feinberg of the law firm Feinberg Mindel Brandt & Klein. "So the rationale for a conservatorship remains," even if the person is making, you know, $15 million or more a year.

To put it succinctly, Feinberg says, these kinds of court arrangements very often affect people "who have very lucrative positions but whose demons can rear their head at any time."

And by demons, we don't mean odd wardrobe choices.

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