The actress is ordered to appear in court Friday to determine if her mother gets legal control of her life
Credit: St. Clair / Splash News Online

At a hearing two weeks ago, a Ventura, Calif., judge was being extra cautious: He wanted to see Amanda Bynes in person before granting her mother, Lynn, 66, temporary legal control of her life.

Bynes, 27, who’s been forcibly hospitalized for the past 17 days since allegedly setting fire to a neighbor’s driveway, is expected to be escorted to the courthouse Friday by hospital staff for the pivotal hearing.

“What happens to Amanda next largely depends on what her treating doctor recommends,” says Jeffrey S. Cohen, an L.A. attorney who’s not involved with the case.

“If Amanda has improved, is cooperative and recognizes she needs treatment, it’s possible she could be released to the care of her parents for outpatient treatment with her mother in legal control of her basic needs and finances,” Cohen says.

However, if Ventura Superior Court Judge Glen M. Reiser rules that her mother’s legal control is unnecessary, he could defer to the doctor, who could keep Bynes hospitalized for several more weeks, experts say.

Bynes’s court-appointed attorney, Mary Shea, has steadfastly had no comment. Rick and Lynn Bynes’s attorney Tamar Arminak previously told PEOPLE: “My clients only want the best for their daughter. They love her very much.”

It’s also possible that if Bynes’s condition – reportedly a mental illness with schizophrenic tendencies – has greatly improved, she could be set free. But that scenario seems unlikely, since just a week ago, her doctor successfully defended her 14-day hold to another judge.

“Taking a person’s freedom away is a serious matter,” Cohen says, “and Amanda’s judge won’t grant her mother legal control unless he’s absolutely convinced that Amanda cannot handle her own basic needs.”