Britney Spears [Photo: Courtesy]

A US court has rejected an attempt by Britney Spears, 38, to have her father removed as a conservator of her estate. Jamie Spears has been his daughter's legal conservator for 12 years, due to concerns about her mental health. Spears' lawyer said the pop star was "afraid" of him, and that she would not perform so long as he remained in the role. Her father's lawyer argued that he always acted in the best interests of his daughter.

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A judge said she would consider future appeals for his dismissal or outright removal. In the meantime, at the request of Spears, financial company Bessemer Trust has been appointed as a co-conservator. During a hearing on Tuesday, her lawyer, Samuel Ingham, said she and her father have no "viable working relationship" and have not spoken in a "long while".

But Vivian Thoreen, Jamie Spears' lawyer, argued that the reason they had not spoken was because Ingham had advised Spears against it. Thoreen also defended Spears' record as conservator. When he assumed the role, Spears was fighting tens of millions of dollars in lawsuits. But under his guidance, Thoreen said her business operation was now worth $60m (£45m).

The legal battle is taking place against the backdrop of the "Free Britney" movement - a group of fans who believe Spears is being kept prisoner by her father and others. Britney Spears has not controlled her financial affairs or many of her career decisions since 2008 under the court-enacted agreement.

A conservatorship is usually granted for individuals who are unable to make their own decisions, like those with dementia or other mental illnesses. Essentially, for the last dozen years, her father and attorney have managed her assets and personal life - including being able to restrict her visitors and communicate with doctors about her treatment.

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The star began behaving erratically in 2007 after her divorce from Kevin Federline, and she lost custody of their two children, although she has frequent visits.