Parents are there to nurture, give guidance, offer support and love unconditionally. But the age old saying is sadly true; it is often those who you hold the closest that hurt you the most.
Celebrities, with all their fame and fortune, aren’t immune to parental strife – they may even be more susceptible. Many noteworthy cases have seen greed get the better of some celebrity parents, who weren’t 100% honest with their child prodigies’ earnings when left alone to handle the finances. When the lines between personal and professional are blurred, as is often the case with parents who manage child stars, the cracks start to appear. Celebrities typically have to worry about so-called friends tagging along for reflected glory – but close family members who wish to exploit them for all they have? That’s another level of treachery.
Many of the stars on this list have not patched up the relationships with their parents, leaving the courtroom was probably the last time they ever saw each other. As much as money can help rectify many problems, it was in fact the root of the problems for these celebrity-parent duos whose relationships ended in million dollar legal settlements.
10. Aaron Carter
In 2003, when Aaron Carter was just sixteen years old, the Crazy Little Party Girl singer decided to sue his parents, Jane and Robert Carter, after they had managed his music career for ten years. Aaron Carter claimed that his own mother had taken more than $100,000 from his earnings without permission. Then things got even nastier when his older brother Nick Carter started his own legal proceedings to sever all personal and professional ties with his parents.
The family suffered a huge tragedy when in 2012, sister and daughter Leslie Carter died after taking a Xanax overdose. Nick Carter said it was the most horrific news he had ever heard and he told Dr Phil during an interview in 2013 that there were family accusations against him around the time of her death, so he decided he had better not attend the funeral.
In 2013 it was reported that he owed $3.5 million in back taxes on earnings he made at the height of his fame; at the time he was only earning $2,000 a month so was unable to pay and he was forced to file for bankruptcy.
9. Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant had such a big problem with his parents auctioning off valuable memorabilia they kept at his house that he decided to take them to court. They finally reached a settlement which allowed his parents to auction only six of the items, which was 10% of the original listing – but which would still sell for more than $500,000.
The items included Kobe’s old school uniforms and replicas of NBA championship rings he had made especially for his parents as gifts. They were given $450,000 up front for the sale lot from Goldin Auctions, which they then used to buy a house in Las Vegas.
After the settlement, both his parents made the following public statement as an apology:
“We regret our actions and statements related to the Kobe Bryant auction memorabilia. We apologize for any misunderstanding and unintended pain we have caused our son and appreciate the financial support he has provided over the years. We also apologize to Goldin Auctions for their inadvertent involvement in this matter and thank them for their assistance.”
8. Macaulay Culkin
After a long time out of the limelight, Macaulay Culkin shocked the world when he was pictured in 2012 looking dishevelled, skeletal and followed by rumours that he was addicted to prescription drugs. It did appear that he was on the brink of a breakdown and could become another actor struck by the child-star curse. He was clearly struggling publicly after breaking up with his girlfriend of eight years; Mila Kunis.
Culkin “divorced” his parents aged just 14-years-old during a legal battle over his $11 million fortune, he was granted the right to control his own earnings and his parents were no longer able to have any parental responsibility over him. They had not spoken for over 15 years when Kit Culkin told a British tabloid newspaper; “I hope that he has the right people looking after him”.
Culkin became a millionaire at 12 years old, but then left the limelight aged 15 and lived a relatively reclusive life in New York for some time.
In 2004, Culkin was arrested for the possession of 17 grams of marijuana, possession of Alprazolam and possession of Clonazepam. He was sentenced to jail but then released on a $4,000 bail. He pleaded guilty at trial and was handed three one-year suspended sentences. He currently tours with his comedy rock band the Pizza Underground who have been together since 2013.
7. Billy Unger
19-year-old Disney star Billy Unger lost a lot of his earnings because his own father, William Unger, wanted to impress a woman he was dating; this persuaded the Lab Rats actor to file a lawsuit earlier this year for breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation and fraud.
The court documents revealed that his father, who was also his manager, had misspent over $400,000 of his earnings and was charging a 33.3% commission when the industry standard is between 10% and 20%. The court also heard that his father spent $120,000 on lavish vacations and lifestyle expenses for his new girlfriend. Alarm bells started ringing for Billy Unger when his father took out a $1 million life insurance policy for his son and made himself the sole beneficiary.
Billy said in court that his father was not a competent business manager by announcing his father as; “Utterly and completely lacking the skill, knowledge, experience to act either as an entertainment talent manager and or business manager.” William Unger dismissed all the claims and said; “I love Billy with all my heart”.
6. Gary Coleman
Gary Coleman became a household name when he played Arnold Jackson in the hit sitcom Diff’rent Strokes (1978-1986), at the height of his fame he was earning $100,000 per episode. In 1989 he sued his adoptive parents for misappropriation of his assets when he discovered that after paying his adoptive parents, advisors and taxes he was left with less than a quarter of his earnings for himself. In 1993, he successfully won $1.3 million at the trial.
Coleman suffered from an incurable kidney disease, he said that working long hours on the set of Diff’rent Strokes alongside his illness led to an exhaustion which caused him to distance himself from his co-stars. Medical costs caused him serious financial difficulty, so he began to auction unusual items to help raise money for himself. In 2008 he placed a pair of his trousers on eBay which were bought by TV show host Jimmy Kimmel, who paid $500 for the pair. In 1993 Coleman gave an interview where he revealed that he had attempted suicide on two occasions by taking a pill overdose.
In 2010, Coleman died aged 42-years-old of epidural hematoma. His funeral was postponed due to continued disputes between his adoptive parents, business advisors and ex-wife Shannon Price over his estate and remaining $75,000 fortune. Although Coleman and Price divorced in 2008 they still lived together until his death in 2010. Price claimed in court that she remained his common-law wife and this would make her the lawful heir to his money and estate. However, in 2012, a Judge ruled that at the time of his death she failed to meet Utah’s standard for a common-law marriage.
5. Ariel Winter
Ariel Winter, who is mostly recognised as Alex Dunphy in Modern Family, is just 17-years-old but has already had so much family drama of her own that you would struggle to script it. In 2012 when the actress was just 14, she went to trial with her parents to air out grievances surrounding Winter and deciding who would have custody of the star.
Winter’s mother was accused throughout the trial of physically and emotionally abusing her own daughter, all these claims she repeatedly denied and she left the courtroom in tears after guardianship over her daughter was revoked. Winter was granted the right to live with her sister Shanelle Gray and her father, Glen Workman, was handed over temporary control of Winter’s $1.7 million fortune.
Both parents agreed in court that the whole family would have to undergo counselling after reports by child protective services found substantial evidence of emotional abuse. However, Winter’s claims of physical abuse were found inconclusive.
4. Leighton Meester
Leighton Meester was born in jail after her mother was behind bars for a drug smuggling conviction. She filed a lawsuit in 2011 against her mother, Constance Meester, who she accused of misusing the $7,500 she sent monthly for medical costs for her younger brother, Lex, who had “severe medical issues”. The money was used instead on hair extensions, plastic surgery and botox for Constance.
Her mother was unemployed, receiving $10,000 a month in living expenses from her daughter, that was agreed upon verbally. Leighton asked the judge to rule that no such contract had ever been agreed between the two.
In 2012 the court ruled that there was no such verbal agreement, and she would not have to pay any living expenses to her mother and her mother’s countersuit was also rejected.
3. Mischa Barton
Only a few months ago, Mischa Barton shocked the world when news broke that she would be suing her own mother for loss of earnings. Nuala Barton was a regular on the red carpet by her daughters side and the pair appeared like a tight unit. Nuala had been managing Mischa’s career for over twenty years and helped her achieve worldwide fame.
In the filed lawsuit, Mischa claims that her mother kicked her out of an $8 million Beverly Hills mansion which was bought from her own money she earned acting. There are also claims that her mother lied about the amounts she was being paid for work and held the difference for herself; Mischa discovered that her earnings were being kept from her after a discussion with the production crew of the film The Hoarder (2013).
In July 2013, Mischa was admitted to a psychiatric unit in Los Angeles, she suffered a mental breakdown and had an altercation with nurses during a hospital visit for a tooth problem. She told People magazine; “It was a full-on breakdown. It was terrifying, straight out of Girl, Interrupted. Story of my life”. Her court case against her mother is still pending trial.
2. The Kardashians
If there is one family unit you don’t want to be up against in a fight, it would have to be the Kardashian sisters; Kim, Khloe and Kourtney. They became outraged in 2013 when they found out that their step-mother, Ellen Kardashian, who was married to their father, Robert Kardashian, since 2003 had sold pages from his personal diary to the media.
They began legal action against Ellen over the sale of the personal items and demanded that they be returned to them. The alleged diary entries Robert Kardashian was said to have written had details of his marriage to their mother, Kris Jenner, and it revealed how she was an abusive mother who abandoned her children to have an affair.
Khloe Kardashian tweeted her anger over the scandal; “10yrs after my fathers [sic] passing&now that she has filed for bankruptcy… NOW she sells FALSE stories. Hope that money buys you water in hell. You should be hiding in shame for all of the lies you sell to tabloids!!” Enough said.
1. LeAnn Rimes
In the year 2000, ‘How Do I Live’ sensation LeAnn Rimes filed a lawsuit against her father, alleging that he stole over $7 million in the space of five years. As Rimes was only 17-years-old at the time and still a minor the suit had to be filed by her mother Belinda Rimes who hired an accountant to investigate the missing money.
The lawsuit filed by Dallas County District Court detailed that Wilbur C. Rimes and former-manager Lyle Walker took up to 30 percent of her income at times by duplicating and augmenting management fees and they both practiced improper business tactics through other private ventures. The suit also alleged that the pair floated themselves no-interest loans through the company LeAnn Rimes Entertainment Inc which was formed in 1995.
In 2002 the court decided in favour of LeAnn Rimes and she was awarded an unspecified amount in compensation. She reconciled with her father in 2011 and invited him to her wedding when she married for the second time to actor Eddie Cibrian.