Several experts said Friday that while they personally supported ending Britney Spears’ custody, they felt it was unusual for the Los Angeles probate court to do so without requiring the pop star to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
“I’m surprised,” said Robert Dinerstein, a professor of disability rights at American University. He said persuading judges to first reverse conservation is unusual.
But when they do, he said, they usually require a psychological assessment.
“In the relatively rare number of cases where conservation is suspended, it is even more unusual to do so without proof that they have had capacity,” said Professor Dinerstein.
Judge Brenda Penny, who discontinued the conservation, said Ms. Spears’ additional psychological assessments were unnecessary because the conservation was technically voluntary.
Victoria Haneman, a professor of trust and estate law at Creighton University, said the California testament code does not require a mental health assessment for conservation to be discontinued. She said the underlying diagnosis explaining why Ms Spears was placed in custody is inaccessible because the record is sealed, making it difficult to determine what assessment may have been required to show the trusteeship was no longer needed.
However, mental problems seemed to be part of the reason, and so she expected an assessment would be required to answer whether those problems were now in the past, she said.
“I’m extremely surprised that this conservation ends without an assessment,” she said.
The experts emphasized that they are not commenting on Mrs Spears’ mental health condition, of which they are not informed – only on the process as they have experienced it.
Typically in deciding whether to end conservation, the experts said, a judge will consider whether the conservation has regained “capacity,” using psychological assessment and other factors to determine cognitive ability and decision-making.
This includes whether they can weigh risks and benefits on things like medical care, marriage, and contracts. The person’s ability to feed, dress and protect themselves can also be examined.
The purpose of assessment is to determine whether the conditions that caused the imposition of the conservation in the first place have now stabilized or are in the past.
Ms. Spears’ case was considered extremely unusual because while the court viewed her as unable to take care of herself, she continued to work extensively as a musician and global celebrity, bringing in millions of dollars.
The singer herself insisted the arrangement would end without her having to undergo further mental evaluation, and her attorney noted that attorneys for her father agreed that no mental or psychological evaluation was required under California probate court.
Zoe Brennan-Kohn, a disability rights attorney at the U.S. Civil Liberties Union, said that although typically some kind of psychological assessment is part of the process to end conservation, it “makes sense that there would be no assessment because everyone agreed.”
“If everyone in the picture thinks this person doesn’t need to be in this invasive situation,” she said, “we don’t want courts to doubt guess that. Everyone said you have to finish this. I think it is fitting that the judge should say, ‘Let us stop this.’ ”