A child star being emancipated from his or her parents is certainly not a new trend in Hollywood. It has been happening for years, and it still happens today. Sometimes when a child star makes it big, the fame and fortune can be all to tempting for stage parents who want to get their hands on the cash. The option of ‘divorcing’ your parents, then, can often be a safety net for vulnerable child earners.
However, in some circumstances emancipation is a mutual agreement between parent and teen star, where the latter wishes to avoid child labor laws that prevent him or her from working on set for longer than eight hours a day. It seems the instances of rebellious Hollywood teens being emancipated from their parents over mismanaged money and bad parenting are the only cases that make the headlines, but there are just as many cases of emancipation for more positive reasons.
Some celebrities who were emancipated to further their careers came out on top, while in many cases they were emancipated because their parents were squandering money ended up even worse than before. In the United States, a child is the legal responsibility of a parent or guardian until he or she turns 18 years old. Emancipated minors must prove financial self-sufficiency, which is why many child actors are successful in their bid for emancipation. Most states require a petition in family court to be signed before a minor can be emancipated, and some states even offer free legal aid to minors wanting to be emancipated. Here’s a look at 17 Hollywood stars that were, or attempted to be, emancipated – for better or for worse.
17. Macaulay Culkin
Manhattan-born Macaulay Culkin was inducted into the world of acting at age four, and went on to become one of the biggest child stars of the 90s thanks to his starring role in the Home Alone films, My Girl and Richie Rich.
However, his meteoric rise to fame and cash windfall made for an uneasy relationship between the child star and his parents. At age 16, Culkin filed a lawsuit to be emancipated from his parents because he claimed they had mismanaged his income earned from film and TV projects. Culkin won the case and his parents had to pay him $17 million.
16. Drew Barrymore
Born into an acting dynasty, Drew Barrymore made a name for herself when she appeared in Spielberg’s E.T. aged just seven years old. Barrymore’s relationship with her parents showed signs of being a troubled one early on, as Drew Barrymore started to develop rebellious characteristics at a shockingly young age; she was smoking and drinking alcohol in public by the age of eleven.
“When I was a kid, everything was so unplanned, my parents were so erratic, and my world was so inconsistent,” Barrymore told the New York Daily News. Barrymore saw her parents as a bad influence. Following time in rehab, Barrymore was successfully emancipated from her parents at just 15 years old. Her father has since passed away, and she is estranged from her mother.
15. Aaron Carter
Aaron Carter, the brother of Backstreet Boy Nick Carter and a teen pop star in his own right, filed for emancipation from his mother in December of 2003. The judge in the case sided with Carter and the teen heartthrob was granted his freedom.
Carter alleged that his mother squandered his earnings and pilfered more than $100,000 from him. Carter’s parents were in the process of a divorce just before his emancipation and Carter says his mother even went so far as to forbid his father from attending some of his concerts.
14. Juliette Lewis
Juliette Lewis was emancipated from her parents at age 14 but there is, in fact, no ill will at all between Lewis and her parents. Lewis’ parents actually were in favor of her being emancipated and helped her to do so.
The reason was so that she could further her career, avoiding restrictive child labor laws. By being emancipated she was allowed to work longer than eight hours a day if she so chose. Lewis says her parents are fantastic, so this is one rare example of child emancipation that had nothing to do with bad blood.
13. Michelle Williams
Michelle Williams rose to fame at 17 when she was part of an ensemble of teen actors and actresses on the hit teen drama Dawson’s Creek. Williams began her career earlier than this, however; she had been working since the early ’90s and at 15 years old, she filed for emancipation from her parents.
Just like Juliette Lewis, this is a case of an actress simply wanting to further her career at a young age. William’s parents were completely in favor of her being emancipated, which would allow her to avoid child labor laws and work longer than eight hours a day if she wished – if casting directors saw she was an emancipated minor they would be more likely to hire her.
12. Courtney Love
Rock star Courtney Love had an extremely unorthodox and unruly upbringing. Her parents divorced when she was five years old, and her mother then took her to live on a commune in Oregon. Her stepfather, Frank Rodriguez, legally adopted her, but when Love was 12 her mother and stepfather divorced.
Love’s mother moved her to New Zealand, but she soon moved back to Oregon live with her ex-stepfather. After brushes with the law for shoplifting, Love bounced from foster home to foster home until she became emancipated at 16 years old.
11. Taylor Momsen
Taylor Momsen, former Gossip Girl star and lead singer of the rock band Pretty Reckless, was emancipated from her parents when she was 16 years old. She was signed up to a modelling agency at age 2, and has since said that she didn’t want to work at such a young age but ‘had no choice’.
Since separating from her parents she has been known as a bit of rebel – she angered parents when she posed for Revolver magazine with a shotgun slung over her shoulder. To think that this was the girl who got her start playing the cutesy Cindy Lou Who in the festive favourite, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
10. Jena Malone
Jena Malone, who has starred in the Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Donnie Darko, was emancipated when she was 15 years old after she claimed that her mother mismanaged the money she had earned from her acting jobs as a child and teen. In a lawsuit related to the emancipation, Malone sued her mother for squandering as much as $1 million. Malone grew up poor and she recalls her mother gathering change just so they could eat at Taco Bell – previous financial hardships may have played a part in the mismanagement of Malone’s earnings.
9. Alicia Silverstone
The 1995 thriller film the Crush was the reason Alicia Silverstone was emancipated from her parents at age 15. In the film Silverstone played a crazed, psychotic teen that was stalking her older crush. As is common for many Hollywood films, the movie required a shooting schedule with long hours. Silverstone’s parents agreed to her request for emancipation so she could work on the film and avoid being subject to child labor laws which would prevent her from working more than 8 hours a day.
8. Corey Feldman
Child star Corey Feldman, of Goonies and Stand by Me fame, sought emancipation from his parents because he claimed they mismanaged his career and finances. He was emancipated from them when he was only 15 years old.
Feldman levelled numerous accusations against his mother in his tell-all book, Coreyography. He said she was addicted to drugs and an abuser; he also claimed she was mentally ill and that she made his life a living hell.
7. Jaime Pressly
Pressly’s rise to fame stated when she worked as a model during her teenage years. She would later find success starring in films like Not Another Teen Movie and TV shows like my name is Earl. It was her modeling career that was the reason she wanted to be emancipated from her parents at age 15. She wanted to travel to Japan for modeling work, but her parents were unable to go with her. So, she was emancipated so she could take the trip.
6. Ariel Winter
One of the most recent Hollywood stars to seek emancipation was Ariel Winter who stars as Alex Dunphy on the hit ABC sitcom Modern Family. Winter has reportedly had serious problems with her mother – the actress claims that her mother physically and emotionally abused her. She originally wanted emancipation because of the abuse she says her mother inflicted upon her. However, now the 16-year-old TV star is under the care of a new guardian: her older sister.
5. Bijou Phillips
The emancipation of Bijou Phillips may have been well-intentioned, but she ended up succumbing to the pressures and lure of drugs when she went out on her own. Bijou is the daughter of Mama and Papa’s lead singer John Phillips and South African model Geneviève Waïte, and she sought emancipation from her famous parents so she could follow in her mother’s footsteps and pursue a career in modeling. She was emancipated at just 13 years old.
4. Laura Dern
Laura Dern hailed from a famous acting family, and her parents (Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd) supported her when she wanted to be emancipated so she could pursue her career. The Jurassic Park star wanted to work and couldn’t get the jobs she wanted as a teen if she wasn’t emancipated. The emancipation allowed her to work longer hours and further her career. “I’m emancipated, you have no right to tell me what to do,” joked Dern when she was interviewed with her father on James Lipton’s Inside the Actor’s Studio.
3. Natasha Henstridge
This blonde Canadian beauty got her big screen debut when she starred in the science fiction horror movie Species where she played a killer alien seductress. Henstridge was emancipated from her parents when she was only 14 years old so that she could move to Paris and pursue her modeling career. Her request to be emancipated paid off and her modeling career allowed her to become a film and TV star.
2. Rose McGowan
Rose McGowan has had an eclectic career to date, and she also had a somewhat troubled childhood. She spent a stint in rehab when she was a teen because her mother’s boyfriend said that Rose was doing drugs because she wore all black. McGowan denied she was using drugs. She emancipated herself from her parents and went on to live with her aunt in Seattle before starring in movies like Encino Man and Grindhouse and TV shows like Charmed.
1. Eliza Dushku
Eliza Dushku’s career got off to a very promising start early on when she was cast in movies with big Hollywood stars like Robert De Niro and Arnold Schwarzenegger in films such as This Boy’s Life and True Lies. Soon after, she was cast in the hit TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer alongside Sarah Michelle Gellar. Dushku was emancipated shortly after so she could work long hours on the set of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.