For those hoping the end of ‘ conservatorship would mark the beginning of a new chapter of happiness and stability for the singer, the past 18 months have proved challenging.
Since November 2021, when the 13-year arrangement to control her financial and personal affairs was lifted, she has documented her freedom in a torrent of highly emotional social media messages, many of them semi-naked.
The often-bizarre posts led to fears the 41-year-old is fragile, damaged by the years in which others controlled her life, and perhaps still plagued by the mental health issues which first led to the conservatorship.
Today, Britney is in an extremely dangerous place.
They tell me her drug-taking has resumed – with some in her family claiming she is now hooked on crystal meth, the highly addictive amphetamine derivative made notorious in hit series Breaking Bad.
But after spending nine months working with the wider Spears family – Britney’s parents, her brother, her former husband and her children – for a new documentary, I’m sorry to say the situation is more deeply troubling than even we had guessed.
‘I fear she’s on meth – I’ve been praying someone would make it public and that she wakes up,’ Kevin Federline, her ex- husband and father of their two sons, told me. ‘It’s terrifying. She is the mother of my boys.’
Her sons, Preston, 17, and Jayden, 16, are refusing to meet their mother, claiming they have seen drugs being delivered to her house.
Her family are scared, with Britney’s father, Jamie, telling me he worries she will meet the same fate as English singer Amy Winehouse, who died at the tragically young age of 27.
Having spent time with both families – Amy’s in the three years before her death and Britney’s over the past year – I can see disturbing parallels.
And as her ex-husband put it several times: ‘Every time the telephone rings, I fear that there will be devastating news.
‘I don’t want the boys to wake up one morning and find their mother has taken an overdose.’
Having cut off her family after her conservatorship ended, accusing Jamie – the arrangement’s instigator – of being ‘abusive’, ‘bullying her’ and even forcing her to take birth control, she has left them powerless to intervene.
I first encountered the Spears family in July of last year when, with my producer Erbil Gunasti, I started filming a TV news special with Britney’s family members.
The idea had been to look at both points of view – from that of a singer recently released from the shackles of the conservatorship, but also from her two boys and those left to bring them up. Bit by bit, we were able to piece together how Britney and her family reached this catastrophic point.
Various family members say they would like to reach out to her but they claim she no longer depends on their care and is instead now reliant on an entourage of powerful advisers – with those once closest to her unable to get through.
Last month, Britney revealed there had been a step towards reconciliation with her mother, Lynne, whom she said had ‘showed up at my doorstep after three years’, adding on Instagram: ‘I love you so much!!!’
For the rest of her family, there has been no such rapprochement. None were present at her wedding last year to the 26-year-old American-Iranian model Sam Ashgari.
Britney’s sister, Jamie Lynn, is also estranged following her memoir Things I Should’ve Said, in which she described struggling with a lack of self-esteem due to Britney’s fame.
The book also detailed an occasion in which she claims Britney locked the pair in a bathroom while holding a knife – allegations described by the singer as ‘crazy lies’.
Britney would struggle to refute her history of substance abuse in the same way.
During a custody hearing in 2007, a California judge described her as ‘a habitual, frequent and continuous’ user of alcohol and prescription drugs.
Kevin told me that at one point, when the boys were still babies, he instructed his lawyers to warn Britney not to breast feed them while on drugs.
In August, I disclosed in The Mail on Sunday that the boys had decided not to see their mother until she finds help. They have kept their word.
They told me that they had been through many traumatic experiences with her over the years.
And things did not improve as they grew older. They claim, for example, that she attempted to continue bathing them when they were age 11 and 12.
In one frightening stay at Britney’s home, they say they found her standing near the door of Jayden’s bedroom in the middle of the night – with a kitchen blade in her hand. ‘She was standing there with a knife,’ Jayden told his dad.
Bright, attractive and well-mannered, Jayden and Preston have told me they are not angry, just concerned for her wellbeing and desperate for her to get the help they believe she needs. The response to our MoS article was dramatic. Britney took to social media and attacked her sons like a wounded animal. Jayden received heated phone calls from her while he was at school and stopped answering her calls and texts.
Contact has not completely stopped. Preston called her on December 2 to wish her a happy birthday. He told us that they’ve had good conversations on the phone – but when she asked him to visit he said he was not ready for it and that he was focusing on school and his future.
In a flash of parental instinct, Britney broke my heart when she told me: ‘I deserve respect, I am their mother.’
Indeed, she funds the boys’ education, and then some. Kevin Federline collects around $40,000 (£32,000) in child support from Britney every month.
There are considerable expenses involved in looking after the boys, it is true, but he receives more than the US President does – and it’s tax free.
When Britney says she has spent years funding the lifestyles of those around her, she is right.
Kevin’s plan is to move the boys to Hawaii, far from her home in Los Angeles, which will only compound her suspicion.
As it happens, there is a legal quirk in Hawaii. There, parents must support their children through college, until they’re 23. Mandatory support ends at 18 in every other state.
Britney also suggests that Kevin does little work aside from caring for the teenage boys, and she appears to be correct. She claims that he is a regular user of marijuana, too – which (if true) is legal in California.
Today, they live in Calabasas, a celebrity enclave in the Santa Monica Mountains with the likes of Kourtney Kardashian as neighbours – although A-listers like her live in a gated section. The rent for the house, which has a basketball court and a pool, is paid by Britney, of course.
Kevin and his partner Victoria have certainly given the boys a loving home and spend time driving them to school and activities. But there are no flowers in the garden. The grass is unkempt. And with two dogs roaming free, you have to watch where you step. The boys might have pictures of their mother in their bedrooms, but there is not much sign of Britney downstairs.
When I suggested that Jayden’s talent on the piano might be a legacy from his superstar mom, Victoria begged to differ.
‘No!’ she said. ‘Britney used to yell at Jayden for practising the piano at her home. He was making too much noise. It was us, me, who encouraged Jayden to practice.’
Those close to Britney were pinning their hopes on staging an ‘intervention’ – to effectively kidnap her with medical supervision and take her to a place of safety – on Tuesday, February 7.
There were reports that Britney had stopped taking her mood-stabilising medication and that substances she was taking instead ‘hyped her up’ and caused her to ‘fly off the handle’.
One of her friends told the online gossip publication TMZ: ‘I’m afraid she’s going to die.’
The plan had been drawn up by Jodi Montgomery, one of Britney’s former conservators appointed by the court to replace her father in controlling her affairs.
She had stayed on the board at Britney’s request.
She told Kevin that Sam Ashgari and Cade Hudson, her manager, were in on the operation, in which Britney would receive at least two months of treatment. Friends and family rented a safe house for the singer in Los Angeles and hired ‘interventionist’ Matt Brown – a medical professional who specialises in treating addictions.
Jodi had told Kevin to prepare his boys for what was about to happen. He was filming with me when the moment came.
I watched him nervously, glued to his phone as he waited for a text from Jodi to say the intervention was under way. But no text ever came – only a message to say that Jodi had resigned.
When rumours of it emerged online, Britney went on Instagram and denied the story – claiming there had been no such plan. But I was there. In reality, she had been alerted and the scheme fell apart. After that, one of Britney’s family members told me: ‘This was the last chance of saving her.’
Perhaps it is no surprise that the intervention failed because of the previous trauma Britney, a loving mother, experienced.
When Britney went off the rails in 2008 – which led to the conservatorship – her babies were taken away from her and she was placed involuntarily into psychiatric care.
That is when Britney says her own mother told her to ‘give the boys to their father’ and asked Kevin to take them away.
In 2019, Britney told a court she had been forced to stay at another mental health facility and given medication without her consent.
About Daphne Barak
Daphne Barak is a renowned interviewer and documentary film maker, whose subjects have included Nelson Mandela, Donald Trump, Hilary Clinton, Johnny Depp and Michael Jackson among many others.
Daphne’s best-selling book Saving Amy, based on her months’ filming with Amy Winehouse and her family, is being adapted into a scripted eight part TV series by Halcyon Studios.
Today, reports suggest Britney’s marriage to Asghari is in trouble, with fans noticing that on a recent holiday to Puerto Rico in April, she was not wearing her wedding ring.
There have also been reports of a ‘manic episode’ which took place in a restaurant.
One friend told a US publication: ‘She is often up all night, sleeps during [the] day and has a lot of anger.’
It doesn’t help that a lack of work has meant she cannot channel her energy.
It is barely believable given her vast commercial success, but Britney’s father and other family members are concerned about her current financial situation.
Britney has had no steady income since 2019, when she stopped her Vegas residency. What are her intentions once the child support payments to Kevin cease?
Some family members say they had long assumed that the monthly payments for child support would include money to be put aside for trust funds for Preston and Jayden.
They have calculated that, by now, Jayden and Preston should have six-figure sums at their disposal. Family members say they’ve seen no evidence these trust funds exist.
But the boys are doing their best to focus on their future. It is clear that they feel powerless to intervene in their mother’s life.
Their only power is to stay away, hoping that one day she will understand their reasons and they can repair their relationship.
Jamie likens his daughter’s fate to that of Amy Winehouse. In a conversation about the Back To Black singer with my producer Erbil, he interjected, ‘Yes, yes, exactly… Britney may die like Amy.’
Although Jamie has been condemned by Britney and many of her fans for his controlling role during the conservatorship, he believes strongly he is a loving father who did what he needed to protect his famous daughter.
He says: ‘Compare her wellness then and how she is doing now.’
Preston adds: ‘All we want is for her to listen to us.’
I hope she will – before it’s too late.
Daphne’s latest book, Struggling for One America, written with Erbil Gunasti, is published by Skyhorse Publishing and is available to buy here.
Read her pop culture scoops here.