Britney Spears cleared a key legal hurdle Wednesday as a judge granted her request to hire her own attorney. It’s a key step forward for the superstar entertainer in her battle to extricate herself from a 13-year conservatorship and regain her independence. She chose as her new legal representative former federal prosecutor Mathew Rosengart, a lawyer with experience dealing with celebrity clients.

The case has earned international attention not just because of Spears’ immense fame, but also because, as MSNBC reports, it has underscored the inherent sexism that some say is embedded in the American legal system.

The singer broke down in tears during Wednesday’s hearing, telling the judge she was “extremely scared” of her father, James “Jamie” Spears, and wants him removed as her conservator.

Spears spoke in detail of how her problems with her father date back years, and referenced his past problems with alcohol abuse.

“I’m here to get rid of my dad and charge him with conservatorship abuse,” she said, before adding, “this conservatorship has allowed my dad to ruin my life.” She also said the following:

“If this isn’t abuse, I don’t know what is. I thought they were trying to kill me.”

Spears told the court that her father has exercised complete control of her life right down to her diet, and even claimed she wasn’t allowed to remove an IUD so she could attempt to have more children. The pop singer and mother of two is asking the court for more say in her medical care and the freedom to complete her therapy from her home to avoid being hounded by the paparazzi. There is a bigger battle she’s fighting, however. As Spears said during a June 23 hearing, she wants to regain control of her life and end the conservatorship that she called “traumatizing.”

Spears’s situation has led many to question why the courts would force a female music superstar to give up so much control over their lives, when so many male musicians who have endured personal struggles and very public meltdowns of their own, have not wound up in similar situations.

After today’s legal victory, Spears sent a message to her 55 million Twitter followers thanking them for their support.

An attorney for Jamie Spears told the judge that there were a number of “misstatements” made in Britney Spears’ testimony in a hearing last month. That lawyer also said Britney Spears’ belief that her father is to blame for all her concerns is “simply not true” and there is no basis for Jamie Spears to step down from her case.

Wednesday’s hearing came about after the resignation of Spears’s court-appointed attorney, Samuel D. Ingham III, who has handled her case since 2008.