To most people, living a life of fame and fortune sounds absolutely awesome– unless you’re a minor, with extremely greedy, morally corrupt parents. Unfortunately for many child stars, they’re subjected to following the lead of their parents, who oftentimes have no business managing the finances of such wealthy individuals. It’s easy to assume that parents always have their children’s best interest in mind and would do anything to ensure their well-being. But as we’ve seen in Hollywood many many times, once money is involved, people change–fast.
While many child stars have relied on their parents’ judgement their whole personal and professional lives, they oftentimes have to make the tough decision to emancipate themselves from their legal guardianship and/or their financial management. While some famous youngsters are able to continue somewhat of a healthy relationship with their parents after they legally separate themselves from them; many other actors and their parents don’t fair so well. Some parents will do just about anything to make a buck, whether it means taking their kids’ earnings for themselves or robbing them of a childhood altogether. Read on to learn about 15 famous kids that went through court hearings, family feuds and other unpleasant events in order to get justice from the mistreatment of their parents. Suddenly your parents don’t look so bad, do they?
15. Mischa Barton
Similar to the show that made her famous, Mischa Barton’s personal life was chock-full of drama. In 2015, Mischa sued her 63 year old mother on the grounds that she stole millions of dollars from her. Up until that point, Mischa’s mother had served as her manager, and had access to all the benjamins her daughter was cashing in… 20 years worth to be exact. As a child star, Mischa had starred in big-time movies like The Sixth Sense and daytime soaps like Once and Again and All My Children. But the biggest chunk of Mischa’s earnings undoubtedly came from her role as Marissa Cooper on The OC. Not only did Mischa accuse her “momager” of stealing from her, she also claimed that her mom kicked her out of the Beverly Hills mansion she had purchased.
Oddly enough, Mischa dropped all the charges right before her stint on Dancing with the Stars. While Mischa obviously had a change of heart, she “dismissed the case without prejudice”. That means the case isn’t completely closed and she can still refile down the road if she feels so inclined.
14. Macaulay Culkin
Macaulay Culkin is easily one of the most successful child actors of our time. From a very early age, Macaulay starred in hit movies like My Girl and everyone’s favorite Christmas movie, Home Alone. While we all knew and loved Macaulay, we had no idea that he and his parents were going through a lot a home. Macaulay’s father, Kit, served as his manager and earned a bad reputation as a demanding father and an alcoholic. Eventually, Macaulay’s parents divorced, putting him — and his 50 million dollars worth of earnings— right smack dab in the middle of it all. Macaulay’s parents used the young actor as a pawn in their custody battle, ultimately hoping to get the incredibly large sum of money.
Luckily, Macaulay’s story has a happy ending! The young actor ended up taking his parents to court and was emancipated from his parents and was given full control over his own finances. While Macaulay went on to have a pretty successful acting career, it was often overshadowed by his more than interesting personal life— like when he became a frequent companion of Michael Jackson’s. Very interesting.
13. Ariel Winter
Most of us know Ariel Winter as the smarty-pants middle child of the Dunphy clan on the hit sitcom, Modern Family. But aside from being part of one of the best comedies on TV, Ariel has possibly the worst mom ever. For years Ariel has struggled with her mother, Chrisoula Workman and her controlling, overbearing parenting. According to Ariel, her mother pushed her into show business at the age of four, and was continually forcing her to be in the limelight since. Ariel says she enjoys acting, but would have liked to discover that herself instead of being forced into it.
At age 14, Ariel took her mother to court to let a judge decide if her mother was unfit to have Ariel live with her. Thankfully, the judge sided with Ariel and granted her 37 year old sister to be her legal guardian. While Ariel’s mother didn’t rob her of money (although we’d imagine the legal fees were quite costly), she definitely robbed her of her childhood and freedom.
12. LeAnn Rimes
While LeAnn Rimes was born with an incredible singing talent, she didn’t exactly strike gold in the parent department. From the age of 18 months, LeAnn Rimes was put into talent competitions and performances and became somewhat of a sensation on the country music scene. By the time she was ten, she had performed a countless amount of live performances and was traveling all over the country with her father, Wilbur Rimes to do shows. Sounds like any normal childhood, right?
At age 13, LeAnn’s hit album, Blue became extremely popular and earned her an incredible amount of money. Shortly after the album’s success, LeAnn’s parents divorced, and at age 16, LeAnn decided to take her career into her own hands. LeAnn took her father to court after claiming he and his partner pocketed $7 million in earnings and pocketed hundreds of thousands more. Wilbur even filed a countersuit against LeAnn for her “egregious spending”. These days, the two seem to have reconciled as proven by her emotional interview on The Talk.
11. Lindsay Lohan
Our favorite red-head won all of our hearts in films like The Parent Trap, Freaky Friday and the incredibly funny no-matter-how-many-times-you-watch-it, Mean Girls. But as Lindsay began to grow into a teenager, we couldn’t help but cringe as we watched her life go off the rails. Once Lindsay was in the public eye, her father Michael Lohan (who was divorced from her mother) suddenly showed a lot of interest in Lindsay and the limelight that came with her. Lindsay never had the best relationship with her father, probably due to his substance abuse, DUI charges and his many arrests. Michael may never have tried to sue Lindsay, but he definitely tried to steal her attention thanks to his many publicized rants about his daughter. He acted as if he genuinely cared about her in order to get attention. Lindsay usually saw right through it, but it obviously took a toll on her as we saw in her incessant partying and flaky behavior.
10. Gary Coleman
Gary Coleman starred on the extremely popular sitcom, Diff’rent Strokes from a very young age. After the success of the show, Gary fought with his ex-manager and his parents for control over the incredible amount of money he’d earned from his success. In 1989, Gary sued both parties for $3.8 million over “misappropriation of his trust fund”. After much time spent in court Gary was finally awarded over a million dollars in 1993.
Unfortunately, Gary didn’t hold onto his money for very long. Gary got in all kinds of legal trouble like getting charged with assault after punching a fan, and getting cited for misdemeanor disorderly conduct. Between legal fees and other personal problems, Coleman never was able to hold on to much money at all and even filed for bankruptcy. Gary remained deep in financial trouble up until the day he died in 2010.
9. Leighton Meester
This Gossip Girl star had drama going on at home that was almost as bad as the kind she faced on her show. For most of Leighton Meester’s career, she was sending money home to her younger brother, who had a slew of medical problems— $7,500 a month to be exact. But once Leighton learned that her mother, Constance Meester was using the money for herself, she decided to take her to court. Leighton accused her mother of using the money for botox injections, hair extensions and plastic surgery. Constance fought back with claims that her daughter put a strain on her life for her career, and other bogus claims— but the judge saw right through it. Since then, Leighton was able to rid her toxic mother from her life and take care of her brother.
8. Aaron Carter
Would you believe us if we told you someone as successful as Aaron Carter was completely broke? According to the former pop-star, his parents are to blame for his years of financial struggle. After earning a pretty decent sum of money for his albums and appearances, Aaron Carter was definitely making a name for himself and stepping out of his brother’s (Backstreet Boy, Nick Carter)’s shadow. But when Aaron turned 18, he got hit with taxes and filed for bankruptcy. Nick’s parents seem to blame for his financial struggles, after years of mismanaging his money. When Nick’s parents were having financial trouble, Nick signed off his 15% of saved earnings (thanks to Coogan’s Law, a law that helps protect minors from getting their money taken away from them) to his mother to help them. Since then, Nick has reportedly been in some serious debt… $100,000 worth. Yikes.
7. Shirley Temple
From 1934 to 1938, Shirley Temple was America’s number one box office star, and she was barely even 10 years old! Before she was even the age of 12, Shirley had starred in 44 films and was a major box office draw for 20th Century Fox. Back in those days, there weren’t any laws that protected children from loosing their money to their parents and managers. Shirley’s mother reportedly received over $200 a week, while her daughter would receive less than $20. When Shirley grew up and looked into her bank account, she found that she only had $44,000 instead of the 3.2 million dollars she though she’d earned by then. Shirley’s parents never put any of her money in a trust and she pretty much never saw any of it.
6. Jena Malone
You may recognize the actress Jena Malone from hit movies like Contact, Stepmom and more recently, The Hunger Games franchise. Jena began acting at the young age of 12 and quickly became a huge provider for her then impoverished family. However, this wasn’t quite the typical “rags to riches” story. At the young age of 14, Jana took her mother to court in hopes to be emancipated from their legal ownership of her earnings. And after learning that her mother had mismanaged her money by making horrible investments and made up “business ventures” with family members, we don’t blame the actress for taking legal action. By the time Jena was 15, she was granted full legal control of her bank account and earnings. Luckily her legal drama became a thing of the past as she continued to make quite a name for herself as a respected actress in Hollywood.
5. Corey Feldman
If you love cult classic films from the 1980s, you definitely are familiar with actor Corey Feldman. Corey started his career off strong as a kid, starring in films like The Goonies, The Lost Boys, Gremlins and many, many more. Not surprisingly, Corey earned quite a bit of money very early on in his career and was reportedly worth $1 million by the time he was 15 years old. Despite his net worth, Corey discovered that his bank account only had about $40,000 dollars in it and quickly took his parents to court. Corey was granted emancipation from his parents and won. According the Corey, he began the “emancipation proclamation in Hollywood” that many actors after him would become familiar with. This wasn’t the only drama Corey had with his parents. In 2011 Corey announced publicly that he was molested and r*ped as a young boy by his father’s assistant at the time.
4. Kobe Bryant
Basketball legend, Kobe Bryant may be an incredible athlete, but he has a less than impressive relationship with his family. Back in 2013, Kobe’s parents, Jim and Pam, attempted to auction off six items of Kobe Bryant memorabilia including two high school uniforms and two Lakers 2000 championship rings. Kobe attempted to sue the company that his parents used to auction off his belongings, who admitted that his mother was already the owner of such items. That means that they had given Pam an advance of $450,000 dollars to sell the items and pay for a new home in Las Vegas.
It’s not just Kobe’s parents that he has money issues with. Kobe’s sisters have been known to rely on the athlete’s money to help support their lifestyles. Kobe recently admitted to cutting his sisters off financially, in hopes that they’d find their own path in life and stop relying on him so much.
3. Drew Barrymore
Money isn’t the only thing a parent can steal from their child– sometimes they can rob them of an entire childhood. Actress, Drew Barrymore was raised by two actors, John Drew Barrymore and Jaid Barrymore. Since Drew was but a wee little girl, her parents were very involved in Hollywood’s party scene, often subjecting Drew to some seriously inappropriate situations for a girl that age. How horrific was Drew’s childhood, you ask? Drew was often found at Studio 54 as a very young girl, began smoking at age 9 and was drinking and snorting cocaine all before her 14th birthday. Drew then spent some time in rehab and even attempted suicide at the young age of 14. Finally at age 15, Drew was emancipated from her parents and no longer legally bound to them. So next time you have a fight with your parents and claim they can’t get on your level, remember to be thankful they’re not Drew Barrymore’s parents.
2. Frank Ocean
Singer, Frank Ocean has been public about his problems with his father for a few years now. In 2012, Frank announced on Twitter that his father wanted to sue him for one million dollars. The Tweet read (but has since been deleted), “Like I owe him back child support. Weak individual bought me a Swiss knife at 6yrs old then dipped on me”. And that wasn’t the last time Frank ran into trouble with his father. As recently as July of 2016, Frank’s dad accused his son of lying to the press about him being homophobic. After the tragic shooting at a nightclub in Orlando in 2016, Frank Ocean wrote an essay that included a tidbit about his father speaking rudely about a transgender waitress. Frank’s dad was reportedly suffering from much distress after the allegations and wanted to sue his son for 5 million dollars as retribution. Ultimately, the case was dismissed and no one was awarded any money.
1. Billy Unger
Unlike the other celebs on this list, Disney channel star, Billy Unger was the one to sue his parents. Billy Unger took his father to court with charges of breach of contract, fraud and negligent representation. Billy’s father was serving as his manager and financial advisor at the time. Billy made a statement against his father stating that he never had the skills necessary to be an entertainment manager or business manager. Billy also claimed that his father was taking a 33% commission from his son’s earnings– that’s over double the standard rate! As of late, Billy’s attorney has publicly stated that the two have tried to reconcile out of court but remain unsuccessful.