Last Friday, Lynne and Richard Bynes went to the Ventura County Courthouse in California to request a 30-day conservatorship of their daughter. The judge delayed hearing the conservatorship case until Aug. 9, by which time Amanda Bynes will have completed her mandatory two-week psychiatric hold at a Los Angeles area hospital. Here's how someone gets conservatorship over an adult child — and what it could mean for Amanda's future.
If Bynes' mother gets conservatorship, what will she control?
If granted conservatorship over her daughter, Lynn Bynes can decide where Amanda will live, which doctors she will see, and who Amanda is allowed to meet with. Lynn would be expected to provide food, shelter, and clothing for Amanda and protect her from "fraud" and "undue influence."
On a professional level, this could mean Bynes' mother could prevent her from entering into contracts, endorsements, acting jobs, or paid appearances.
Britney Spears' father's conservatorship over his daughter, which continues to this day, is credited with the star's rehabilitation and comeback from a very public breakdown. Under the conservatorship, Spears regularly takes her medication and meets with doctors. Her father also managed to secure a restraining order on behalf of Spears against her former manager/boyfriend Sam Lutfi. Spears' parents accused Lutfi of — and Lutfi later admitted to — crushing up pills used to treat insomnia and schizophrenia and putting them into Spears' food to keep her "quiet" for a few days at time. There have also been reports that Lutfi has been in touch with Bynes.
Who gets put into conservatorships?
Conservatorships are typically granted to people who care for adults with disabilities, like seniors with dementia or grown children with autism. Those suffering from severe mental illness or substance abuse issues can also be placed into a conservatorship. Some people also enter into a conservatorship willfully.
Does Amanda Bynes qualify for conservatorship?
The family has to provide evidence that Bynes is "unable to provide [her] basic needs of food clothing and/or shelter."
The fire incident in Thousand Oaks, California, last week could be the most convincing evidence in their daughter's inability to care for her own well-being. But as some legal experts have said, the case for conservatorship is no slam dunk.
Bynes was spotted by someone in Thousand Oaks, trying to put out a small gasoline fire with her own pants in a driveway. (She was not wearing any pants at the time.) When a local resident, Andrew Liverpool, attempted to help Bynes, she shouted at him, saying her dog was burned in the fire. Reportedly, Bynes then walked several blocks — her gasoline-soaked Pomeranian in hand — to a gas station to wash off her dog in the bathroom sink.
In their court filing, Bynes' parents describe their daughter as "essentially homeless." The former child actress owns two properties, but both are being rented out. Bynes has spent the last several years renting apartments and hotel rooms in New York but has been kicked out multiple times for being disorderly.
Will her parents get control of her money and estate?
Bynes' parents would need to file a separate petition to take over her estate and finances. In an estate conservatorship hearing, Bynes' family would need to show that their daughter is endangering her own assets. A conservator has final say of financial transactions that effect the conservatee.
In their court filings, Bynes' parents stated that their daughter has access to $4 million in savings and has spent $1.2 million in a very short time. According to the petition, her parents believe she's spent the money on drugs and plastic surgeries.
Can her parents have her committed to a mental institution?
In California, a mental health conservatorship is separate from an estate or probate conservatorship. A mental health conservatorship petition can only be filed by a mental health professional who assesses a person as "gravely disabled." If a petition is granted, then a conservatee could be placed, involuntarily, on powerful psychiatric drugs or placed in a psychiatric facility.
People with organic brain disorders, brain trauma, retardation, alcohol or drug addiction, or dementia cannot be put into a mental health conservatorship. People who are eligible include those with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder (manic depression), schizo-affective disorder, clinical depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Bynes' parents believe that their daughter is suffering from severe paranoia and erratic behavior, and that she poses a danger to herself and others — behavior that could be consistent with one of the above disorders. In their court filing, Bynes' parents describe their daughter's troubling behavior in their home: "She would cover smoke alarms with towels, tape windows shut and cover her car dashboard with cardboard and tape out of fear that cameras were watching her from inside these places."
Her parents added, "Amanda has profound issues with her body image and is obsessed with the idea that she (and others) are 'ugly.'" They fear her daughter will submit herself to unnecessary plastic surgeries. "She talks incessantly about cosmetic surgeries that she wants to have completed. We are concerned that the surgeries she wants to have are dangerous and detrimental to her health."
In this scenario, Bynes' mother would also assume her power to write contracts. Britney Spears' father oversaw the sale of her $4.25 million home in Los Angeles (Spears originally paid nearly $7 million) and has also been able to protect Britney from litigation over breach of contract disputes because she is officially mentally incompetent.
How can Amanda Bynes avoid conservatorship?
If Amanda can demonstrate to a judge that she has the ability to provide food, shelter, and clothing as well as a willingness to complying with doctors' treatment plans, then it's possible the judge could deny Lynn conservatorship.
Radar Online is reporting that Lynn has said that she is willing to drop the bid for conservatorship if her daughter continues to receive mental health treatment. TMZ is also reporting that a source says Bynes blames her bizarre behavior on "bad Amanda."
Conservatorships are typically decided by a judge; Bynes has the right to request a jury trial who could then find her competent of taking care herself.
Bynes has hired an attorney to fight her mother's bid for conservatorship.