Since Shirley Temple tap-danced her way into the hearts of America, child stars have been a Hollywood staple. We love watching our favorite stars grow up on the screen. Unfortunately, there is a stereotype surrounding child stars as many of them fly off the rails as grown-ups. It’s become a time-honored tradition to wait and see if these dimple-faced talents will end up succumbing to the pressures of the public eye.
We’ve heard plenty of tragic stories about child stars dealing with drugs and alcohol issues before they even hit adulthood. Many times, the drama in a young star’s life comes from the parents, who made terrible decisions when it comes to their child’s career and finances. Stay tuned for stars who should have sued their overbearing stage moms and celebrities who were sued by their own family members.
Here are some of the child stars who grew up to take their parents to court.
Ariel Winter has been a promising young actress since making a name for herself on the hit series Modern Family. Unfortunately, her real-life family is much less stable than the one she’s part of on-screen. When the actress was only 14 years old, she was removed from her home due to physical and emotional abuse allegations.
She battled the courts for the next few years in order to get the right to be legally emancipated from her parent’s custody. When she was 17, the actress finally won the court case. Winter has been open about her family life and the effects it had on her well-being. However, she’s reluctant to publicly share details about the case.
After melting viewers’ hearts on Home Alone, Macaulay Culkin didn’t just become one of the most famous child actors – he was one of the most famous stars in all of Hollywood. The Home Alone franchise helped launch Culkin into stardom at a very early age. Culkin’s fame came with fortune but also a considerable amount of family struggles.
When Culkin was 15, his parents split up, and his wealth became the subject of their custody dispute. When Culkin realized that his mother was trying to take $17 million of his hard-earned money to buy herself a new home, Culkin was pissed. With the help of his lawyer, he petitioned to be emancipated from both of his parents. Eventually, his mother won custody over the child star who left her care the second he turned 18.
Most people know that it’s usually not the best idea to mix family and business. Unfortunately, Disney Channel star Billy Unger learned that lesson the hard way in 2015. If you’re a Disney fan, you certainly recognize Unger from his hit show Lab Rats, which lasted four seasons.
When he was first getting into showbiz, his father, Willian Unger, agreed to be his talent manager and business advisor. When Unger was 19, he sued his father for breach of contract, claiming that he used his income for personal benefit. Unger claimed that his dad used his money to pay for his girlfriend’s apartment. He also took almost one-third of his son’s salary in commission. I hope he has a better manager now.
Jena Malone was one of the preeminent young actresses for much of the 1990s. She proved herself as a versatile and savvy young actress with acting roles in movies like Stepmom, Contact, and Donnie Darko. In 1998, at 14 years old, Malone filed a lawsuit against her mother, claiming that she misspent almost $1 million of her hard-earned money.
Malone was already living outside of her mother’s care when she sued to completely cut her out from the rest of her assets. The actress won the lawsuit and was emancipated – a huge victory. It was a really big deal because it allowed the teenager to stay in Hollywood and continue her career.
At the height of his career, it seemed like pop idol Aaron Carter was on top of the world. He had hit songs, a ton of screaming fans, and he made a nice profit off of his clean-cut-yet-approachably-rebellious public image. Although it looked like it had it all, Carter’s family had some secrets.
When he was just 16 years old, Carter’s parents filed for divorce. That’s when he found out that his “momager,” Jane Carter, had squandered nearly $100,000 of his fortune. As a result, Carter filed for legal emancipation.
Corey Feldman has been in the industry for a while. After appearing in a string of ‘80s films like Stand By Me, The Goonies, The Lost Boys, and Gremlins, the promising young star became a millionaire when he was just a teenager.
Unfortunately, in 1986, the actor discovered that his mother spent a significant amount of his earnings, leaving him with a mere $40,000 in the bank. That’s when Feldman started what he later called the “Emancipation Proclamation in Hollywood,” hoping for total independence from his parents. When he was 15 years old, Feldman was freed from their legal custody.
While starring as Marissa Cooper on the popular teen drama, The O.C., Mischa Barton became the girl next door, with a seriously dysfunctional family. In this case, it looked like life imitated art when it came to family stability. In 2015, Barton filed a lawsuit against her estranged mother, Nuala Barton.
The actress claimed that her “momager” relied on her for an income and stole millions of dollars from her daughter over the last two decades. However, Barton decided to drop the suit nearly a year later. She never publicly disclosed the reasons.
When you think of child stars from the ‘80s, few are more recognizable than the adorable Gary Coleman. The Diff’rent Strokes actor made millions for playing Jackson. But it didn’t take long for all the fortune that came with his fame to disappear.
Coleman sued his financial advisor as well as his parents, claiming they mismanaged his money and won $1.3 million in court. Despite the legal victory, his relationship with his parents was destroyed forever. When he died in 2010, the 42-year-old actor hadn’t spoken to his parents for over two decades.
It may seem fairly common for child stars to go after their parents in court nowadays, but in the 1930s, it was certainly a rare occasion. One of the most prolific young stars of that era was Jackie Coogan. He made over 15 movies and had nearly $4 million before he turned 18.
His mother and stepfather took advantage of his success and blew through most of his fortune. Before he knew it, all his money was gone. Coogan earned just $126,000 in court. However, there is a silver lining: his case led to the California Child Actor Bill, also known as the Coogan Law, which protects a portion of what minor actors earn.
Thanks to her feisty portrayal of Blair Waldorf in Gossip Girl, Leighton Meester became a star. Her stardom came with a hefty paycheck, but she had to pay a personal price. The actress, who had been working since she was a teenager, filed a lawsuit against her mother, Constance.
Leighton Meester claimed that she set aside money to help pay for her little brother’s medical care, but her mother spent it on plastic surgery and other cosmetic procedures. Although Meester’s mother countersued, the actress ultimately won in court.
LeAnn Rimes was arguably the biggest female country music star for a long time. Hailed as a young prodigy, the singer racked up awards, multi-platinum album sales, and of course, a nice fortune to go with her well-deserved success.
But in 2000, the 17-year-old artist and her mother went to court over alleged theft. The singer claimed that her father, Wilbur, and co-manager, Lyle Walker, drained her of $8 million! The court battle got really ugly really fast but was eventually settled. Rimes and her father apparently reconciled in 2005.
Chris Warren Jr.
Most of us fell in love with Disney’s cult hit franchise High School Musical. If you were a fan, you certainly remember Chris Warren as Zeke Baylor. In the years since the movies wrapped, he didn’t reach notoriety like other young actors. But he did have something in common with some of them.
He filed a lawsuit against both of his parents in 2013, claiming that they used his High School Musical Money for personal use. The judge sided with the actor, and William’s parents were asked to pay him over $330,000.
In many ways, Tiffany Darwish was the quintessential ‘80s teenager. With her jean jackets, big hair, and down-to-earth personality, the starlet rose to fame thanks to hit pop singles such as “I Think We’re Alone Now.”
But it wasn’t all rainbows and lipstick. In 1988, the 16-year-old singer filed for emancipation from her mother. As the court filings show, Tiffany felt like her mom had too much control over her career and her assets. The situation got so messy that Tiffany moved out of her mother’s home and was declared a runway. Luckily, the two eventually reached a settlement.
Drew Barrymore came from a dynasty of actors and addicts. The talented young girl was a promising actress until her family legacy ruined her. As Drew wrote in her autobiography, Little Girl Lost, her mother took her clubbing as a kid. With that kind of influence, Barrymore smoked, drank, and snorted cocaine before she was even a teenager.
It’s no wonder that she successfully sued for emancipation from her hard-partying parents when she decided to change her life. Nowadays, she is doing great and continued to work as a successful actress. Getting away from her mother was probably the best thing that happened to Drew.
Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino
If you’ve never watched Jersey Shore, consider yourself lucky. But even if you didn’t tune into the reality show, chances are you heard of Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino. Known for his antics and questionable behavior, the reality star sued his father in 2011.
Sorrentino sued for $75,000, claiming that his father used his name and likeness in order to make money through a string of videos on his website… in which he made unfavorable claims about his son. The two later reconciled, and “The Situation” dropped the charges.
Actress Jena Malone rose to fame thanks to her role in The Hunger Games. She’d been living on her own, on-and-off, for years. When she was 14, the star wanted to make it official. She was capable of taking care of herself and sued for legal emancipation from her mother.
She didn’t just want to legally separate from her parents, but she wanted them out of her assets. She sued her mother for spending $1 million of her hard-earned fortune. The actress said that she and her mother have repaired their relationship since.
Dominique Moceanu was the youngest member of the gold-medal-winning U.S. women’s gymnastics team in the 1996 Atlanta games. She was just 14 years old. Endorsement and money followed, but the hard-working, talented athlete saw none of it.
Her father was in charge of her wealth, though he had no management experience – and he sank most of it into a gym. At 17, she successfully sued for emancipation. The court sided with the gymnast, and she was no longer under the legal custody of her parents. However, she discovered the $1 million she earned was gone.
The talented basketball star and family man will always be loved and remembered. But no one’s life is perfect. Kobe Bryant’s parents issued a written public apology for basically trying to sell any of their son’s memorabilia that wasn’t nailed to the floor.
His mother put the items up for auction and took a $450 advance to buy a house. The audacity! Bryant successfully sued both of his parents and the auction house. I mean, they definitely deserved it.
Famous Stage Moms
In the wake of reality shows like Toddlers & Tiaras and Dance Moms, we see stage moms all the time and the extent they are willing to go to in order to get their children ahead. As it turns out, parents living vicariously through their children is not a new age thing.
In fact, people have been pushing their kids into the entertainment industry for decades. In some instances, it’s necessary to push children, but some parents take it to an extreme where it’s borderline child abuse. Perhaps some of these stars should have sued their parents. Whether they pushed their child too far or just enough, here are the most famous stage moms in Hollywood history.
Shirley Temple is a child star icon. In the wake of the Great Depression, Shirley Temple was a glimmer of hope, representing childhood innocence on the screen. Sure, she had the acting chops and singing skills, but being the most adorable girl in America takes a lot of effort.
To get her famous daughter camera-ready, her mother, Gertrude Temple, created her daughter’s curls by wrapping 56 curls in her hair every single day. It took a lot of time to perfect Shirley’s hair, and the actress claimed she hated her curls because she wasn’t allowed to swim (since water would ruin her hair). So, if you thought those flawless curls were natural, think again.
What you may not know about Gertrude Temple was that she was prepping Shirley for the stage before she even gave birth to her. Gertrude constantly played music while pregnant, hoping it would give the unborn baby an artistic inclination.
Little Shirley was able to tap rhythmically to music by the age of two, so her mother immediately signed her up for lessons. Despite pushing her at a young age, Gertrude did try to give her daughter a normal life once she was a movie star. She wisely invested her daughter’s earnings so that Shirley would be able to leave the industry at age 21 and start a career in politics.
Ethel Marion Milne
Judy Garland’s mother was the definition of a stage mom. As a child, Ethel forced her daughter Frances Gumm (before she got her stage name Judy Garland) to perform on stage. When Judy finally signed a deal with MGM studios, her stage mom’s control (and abuse) over her intensified.
While she was working on The Wizard of Oz, the role of Dorothy was intended for a younger actress. In order to keep Garland looking youthful, she was forced to take amphetamines to keep her weight down and ensure she could work long hours. At night her mother gave her sleeping pills to help the speed wear off. Tragically, the substance abuse would become an addiction Judy struggled with for the rest of her life.
Ethel Marion Milne
The things that happened to Judy Garland on the set of the Wizard of Oz are horrific, but the stories about her mother Ethel are worse. She forced her daughter to perform at the age of two, alongside her sisters in the family act: The Gumm sisters.
As we mentioned, when she signed with MGM at the age of 13, she was thrown into the spotlight by day, but she still went home to her mother’s strict rules every night. Ethel was eventually banned from the studio lot because she was so overbearing. If there’s one child star who should have sued her mother, it’s Judy Garland.
Elizabeth Taylor was born (and raised) to become a star. She was naturally beautiful and certainly had the talent to go along with it. However, kids want to be kids and don’t always like working. That’s why Sara, Elizabeth’s one-time-actress mother, pushed her daughter to be a perfect performer.
Sure, kids need to be pushed and disciplined, but only to an extent. Sara enrolled Elizabeth in singing and dancing lessons when she was just two. It was like she had no other direction in life. She felt like she had to fulfill her mother’s acting dreams.
Sara made sure Elizabeth was focused on acting, so by the age of 17, the girl was a stunning starlet and huge talent. Her mother prioritized performing over school, so Elizabeth didn’t know how to count without using her fingers.
When she was 16, Elizabeth reportedly begged for a “normal” childhood, and her mother’s response was, “But you’re not a regular child, and thank God for that. You have a responsibility, Elizabeth. Not just to this family, but to the country now, the whole world.” Wow! Talk about pressure!
After Lindsay Lohan blew away critics with her performance as twins Halley and Annie in The Parent Trap remake, everyone was impressed by the promising young star. The talented Disney actress became a teen icon, but before long, she was more famous for her mug shots than her acting chops.
Paparazzi kept taking pictures of her stumbling out of clubs, but she didn’t have the best influence. Her mother, Dina Lohan, was spotted partying with her daughter and recently pleaded guilty to DIU charges. She was out of control because her mother was unhinged.
There is a TODAY interview that Kate Gosselin gave with her two oldest daughters, Cara and Mandy, and it left viewers uncomfortable. Her true stage mom colors shined bright, and everyone thought Gosselin was pressuring her kids.
She clearly coached the children, and when the twins refused to cooperate with the cameras, she looked enraged. I mean, this is a little much. Their mom chose life in the spotlight, not them. However, the actress insists that her other six kids love the spotlight. Sure, whatever you say, Kate.
The woman who defined the word “momager” is the one and only Kris Jenner. The mother of six faced public scrutiny for years for exposing and sexualizing her children for money. There are still rumors that she was the one who leaked Kim’s infamous sex tape.
Her former employee Pam Behan wrote a tell-all-book entitled Malibu Nanny: Adventures of the Former Kardashian Nanny, where she claimed that Kris always wanted her kids to be stars. If she really is just a stage mom, she is damn good at her job. That’s for sure. I mean, all her children are millionaires, and some are billionaires!
A mother is supposed to be a rational role model for their child. Sometimes people do things they shouldn’t. Parents are supposed to be there to guide their children and prevent them from doing things that are inappropriate, but most of the parents on this list are enablers.
Tish Cyrus defended her twerking, tongue-wagging daughter after her infamous 2013 VMA performance. “I’m so proud of her, and just honestly, I’m in awe of who she’s becoming as a performer. My mother would tell me to put clothes on. But Tish has been photographed partying with Miley on several occasions.
Tori Spelling rose to fame in the ‘90s, when her father, director Aaron Spelling put her on his teen drama series, Beverly Hills 90210. These days she is better known for her antics. She had a bright future, but her family life had a negative effect on her career.
Her mom, Candy Spelling, explains her poor mothering skills in her book Candy, At Last: “I am by no means saying that I am the perfect mother now or I didn’t make mistakes when my children were growing up. In therapy, I learned that I was passive-aggressive and that I also had poor communication skills.”
When it comes to stage moms, Mama June takes the cake. She first made a name for herself when she appeared on TLC’s Toddlers & Tiaras with her daughter Alana Thompson, AKA Honey Boo Boo. Mama June exploited her daughter as a pageant queen and fed her “go-go juice” before she got on stage to give her energy. Basically, speed for children.
Many people questioned Mama June’s parenting skills, but that intensified when the family got their own show, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, where you could see the children’s unhealthy eating habits. The frosting on top is that she got back together with an ex-boyfriend who molested her other daughter. Thankfully, Alana is currently under the custody of her sister. Not her mother.
Two Can Play This Game
It comes as no surprise that many child stars grow up to resent their parents. A lot of the time, the child is responsible for the family’s income, and that’s a lot of pressure to put on a kid. Furthermore, some of them don’t even want to be in the public eye but don’t have much of a choice. Suing their parents makes sense.
This works both ways, however. Sometimes, these stars get sued by their own family members. Sometimes it has to do with their Hollywood fame, and other times it’s just some family drama. Either way, here are the stars who were sued by their own family members.
Modern Family actress Sofia Vergara has an interesting case. The reason it’s so unique is that her lawsuit wasn’t filed by a living person. As reported by Today, the actress was sued by her two frozen “pre-embryos” that she had initially stored to potentially use with her ex-fiancé, Nick Loeb. The eggs were never fertilized, and the couple broke up.
However, Loeb proceeded to push for custody of the unfertilized eggs with the help of a pro-life group. The group made sure to file the lawsuit in Louisiana, where an embryo can sue a person. I honestly don’t even know what to say.
According to ABC News, United States gold medalist Tianna Bartoletta and her husband were sued by the athlete’s parents for libel, slander, and defamation. Robert and Jo Ann Madison claimed their daughter told news outlets lies about them.
According to her parents, Tianna said that they mismanaged her mother and allowed a boy who previously molested her into their home. Of course, they denied all of it. The details on what really happened are unclear, but the lawsuit was eventually dismissed.
You probably recognize the actor from The Silence of the Lambs, but his family life is quite dysfunctional, to say the least. His brothers and sisters sued him, claiming he pressured them to auction off their barbecue restaurant after the death of their parents, according to TMZ.
Ted Levine’s brother Mick said Ted would berate him in emails, saying things like “you crazy f***ing c**t.” The siblings went as far as to say that their famous brother is mentally ill and made them sell the restaurant below its value.
Joan Crawford’s daughter infamously wrote the book Mommie Dearest, where she claimed her famous mother was abusive. The book really strained Christina’s relationship with the rest of her family. Christina Crawford’s sister Cathy LaLonde sued her.
Christina repeatedly lied, saying that Cathy LaLonde and Cynthia Crawford weren’t actually twinsbut just looked alike and were raised as twins. That’s quite a strange allegation. According to The Morning Call, LaLonde was awarded $5,000. And in case you were wondering, the adopted girls are definitely twins.
Despite having the most famous name in Hollywood, most people have never heard of Ellen Kardashian. Years before the family became a reality television sensation, Ellen was married to Robert Kardashian until his untimely death in 2003.
Apparently, Ellen had personal items belonging to the Kardashian kids, including journals and photos. They later sued the stepmother for copyrights over the items and asked for $500,000 in damages claiming she hid them. They ended up settling. Ellen remains the forgotten member of the Kardashian clan and is hated by the rich and powerful family.
Chris Pérez was married to Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, the beautiful singer who was tragically murdered by the head of her fan club. After she died, Pérez had some drama with his in-laws. Selena’s father, Abraham Quintanilla, sued Pérez while he was producing a series about his late wife.
The reason for the lawsuit was because the series was unauthorized. According to Latina magazine, the property rights of Selena’s image belonged to her family. However, isn’t Chris considered her family? The lawsuit still hasn’t been resolved.
Who could forget Blac Chyna’s turbulent relationship with Robert Kardashian while his sister Kylie was dating Chyna’s ex-baby-daddy Tyga? That sounds like plenty of drama for one relationship, but things escalated quickly.
Chyna filed a lawsuit against Rob Kardashian and his family for damaging her brand. Chyna was good friends with Kim at one point, and the whole family seemed to go against her because of her issues with Rob. But he took things to another level when he posted nude pictures of Chyna on social media. They eventually reached a custody agreement over their daughter, Dream.
Frank Ocean’s Dad
Frank Ocean’s father, Calvin Cooksey, sued his son for libel seeking $14 million! The Rolling Stone reported that this whole thing started when Ocean told a story about his father in a Tumbler post. Here it goes:
“I was six years old when I heard my dad call our transgender waitress a f****t as he dragged me out a neighborhood diner saying we wouldn’t be served because she was dirty. That was the last afternoon I saw my father and the first time I heard that word. I think although it wouldn’t shock me if it wasn’t.”
Frank Ocean’s Dad
Well… that’s quite the story. But as you can imagine, Cooksey denied the entire thing, insisting that it never happened: “I have never discriminated against anyone transgender or heterosexual or homosexual,” he told Rolling Stone.
He continued, “The events that defendant describes on June 21st, 2016, that I called a transgender waitress F****T NEVER HAPPENED. The defendant is a scam artist, a fraud, and a hypocrite who deceive[d] the LGBT community on June 21st, 2016, for the financial success of [Ocean’s album] Blonde.”