"[The conservatorship] is in place to protect Britney. Yet so many things that Britney is unhappy about are valid," a source says in this week's PEOPLE cover story about the pop star

Advertisement

Britney Spears is determined to create change for her life going forward.

During a conservatorship hearing in Los Angeles court on June 23, the princess of pop, 39, pleaded for more freedom when she gave an emotional — and at times shocking — 23 minutes of testimony. Now as she moves forward, she is focused on seeing that her desires become a reality, a source close to the Spears family says in this week's PEOPLE cover story.

"Britney was very nervous about speaking in front of the judge, but this is her life — and she wants big changes," says the family source.

Britney's speech in court marked the first time in 13 years that she has publicly addressed her conservatorship, under which her father, Jamie, and others have held the power to make her personal and financial decisions since 2008, when her erratic behavior culminated in two involuntary 5150 holds in a psychiatric hospital.

britney spears
Britney Spears on the cover of PEOPLE

During her speech, she rapidly made startling allegations against her conservators, family and management team, including that they denied her the right to have more children by not letting her remove her IUD, forced her to work a grueling schedule she likened to "sex trafficking" and put her on the psychiatric drug lithium (which is commonly used to treat mood disorders, including bipolar disorder) against her wishes.

"My dad and anyone involved in this conservatorship and my management who played a huge role in punishing me — they should be in jail," said Britney, whose longtime court-appointed lawyer Sam Ingham prefaced his client's speech by informing the judge he had "not attempted" to "filter" Britney's words. (During the hearing the star was not questioned by her conservators' lawyers, and they have not yet had a chance to respond to her allegations in court.)

Britney's explosive court allegations followed the January 2019 cancellation of her planned Las Vegas show and her announcement of a career break in order to support Jamie as he recovered from his own health crisis, a ruptured colon.

That April, she checked into treatment at a wellness facility — a decision she claimed in court was orchestrated by her dad. "I cried on the phone for an hour, and he loved every minute of it," she said.

In August 2019, Jamie, 69, was involved in an alleged altercation with Britney's son Sean Preston, now 15. Weeks later, court documents revealed that Jamie was stepping down as his daughter's personal conservator after more than a decade.

At the time, Jodi Montgomery, Britney's longtime care manager, temporarily replaced Jamie as the conservator of her person, responsible for medical decisions. Jamie remains co-conservator of her estate, along with wealth-management company Bessemer Trust.

Since then Britney has battled in court to prevent Jamie's potential return as her personal conservator

"Britney was close with her dad for years. It really seems that she realizes he saved her life in 2008, but she doesn't agree that the conservatorship should have continued on for all these years," says the family source. "She hasn't had contact with her dad for a long time and was beyond upset after Jamie's altercation with her son."

Jamie's lawyers declined multiple requests for comment from PEOPLE.

While Britney wishes to have her conservatorship end without being evaluated by medical professionals, multiple legal experts say it's more complicated than that.

"You cannot end a conservatorship without a capacity declaration signed by a physician who has examined her within six months," says probate attorney David A. Esquibias, who represents actress Amanda Bynes in her own conservatorship case. "It would be highly unusual for a judge to make a decision without the opinion of an expert."

A source close to the situation previously told PEOPLE that since taking over the role, conservator Montgomery "and a team of experts have concentrated on giving Britney the tools to get better. The hope is that she can get out of the conservatorship."

britney spears
Britney Spears
| Credit: Nicholas Hunt/Filmmagic

Britney was first determined to have lost the capacity to make decisions for herself in 2008, following years of struggles in the public eye.

Since becoming a worldwide phenomenon at age 17 with her No. 1-hit debut studio album, ... Baby One MoreTime, Britney — who was raised in rural Kentwood, Louisiana, by Jamie and her mother, Lynne — has grappled with the pressures created by sudden fame and wealth as well as omnipresent paparazzi and intense scrutiny of her romantic life.

In 2008, after multiple rehab stays for reported drug and alcohol abuse, Britney hit a personal low as she battled in court with ex-husband Kevin Federline over custody of Sean Preston and their son Jayden James, now 14. During each of her 5150 psychiatric holds, a medical professional deemed Britney a danger to herself and others. (Britney's diagnosis and medical records remain private.)

Within a month, Jamie petitioned for an emergency temporary conservatorship, which was granted by a judge.

"In 2008 Britney clearly needed the conservatorship," says the family source. "People close to her believe that she wouldn't be alive without it. She didn't sleep, drove around 24/7 and acted very distressed. There were huge concerns about her mental health."

Adds a music-world source: "She used to be involved with the decisions made about her career and finances, but things changed when she had public outbursts and other issues."

RELATED VIDEO: Britney Spears Breaks Silence After Conservatorship Hearing: 'I Apologize for Pretending Like I've Been OK'

By the end of the year, the star was able to gain more visitation time with her sons and reignite her career with the release of her sixth studio album, Circus, as the conservatorship was made permanent.

In the years that followed, she had several successful world tours, a stint as a judge on the Fox talent competition show X Factor and a Las Vegas residency.

Earlier this year Jamie's attorney Vivian L. Thoreen told ABC News that her client had boosted the singer's fortune, which she claimed had dwindled to $2.8 million at the height of Britney's troubles, to nearly $60 million over the past decade.

"Jamie saved Britney's life," said Thoreen. "He has collaborated with her to help her regain custody of her children. He has brought her finances back from disaster. And he's created a safe environment for her to live her life the way she wants."

Still Britney feels "a lack of trust for Jamie and the conservator team," says the family source.

While Jamie is now only in change of Britney's finances as estate co-conservator, "he still has to approve everything, because everything is related to finances at the end of the day," says the source close to the situation. "If she wants to go to Hawaii, he has to approve that because it costs money. If she wants to take her friends to dinner, he has to approve that because it costs money. He has the right to say no to certain things."

In court it's now up to Britney — who sources say has no current plans to return to the stage — to file a petition to terminate the conservatorship.

"It's a complicated and complex situation," says the family source. "There are clear issues with the conservatorship. It's in place to protect Britney. Yet so many things that Britney is unhappy about are valid. She should definitely have more freedom. This is her life."

For all the details on the fight over Britney Spears' future, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands everywhere Friday.