Child stars can’t be trusted with the money they earn, so it usually goes straight into the bank accounts of the parents… But are Mum and Dad really any more trustworthy? These are the 10 child stars whose parents were skimming off the top…
The 16-year-old star was well and truly richie rich when he sued his parents to relinquish their control over his money, and was emancipated from his mother and father, ensuring that he spent that Christmas home alone. £13 million of his hard-earned cash was removed from the accounts of Patricia Brentrup and Kit Culkin (talk about getting even with Dad) and was placed under the control of family accountant Billy Breitner until Macaulay, the good son, turned 18. The court case saved him a(n Uncle) buck or two and, as child stars so often do, Culkin went on to become a party monster. (There are no more Macaulay Culkin movie title puns that are relevant, we checked).
The star of ‘The Sixth Sense’ certainly didn’t have any extra-sensory perception when it came to figuring out her mother was dipping into her own daughter’s coffers. For years, Mischa’s manager and mother Nuala Barton reportedly lied about the wages that Mischa was paid and pocketed the difference. It was only when an adult Mischa discussed payment with producers on a 2013 horror movie that she realised Mama Barton was getting rich off her, more so than she had already made her, so Mischa filed a lawsuit claiming her mother stole her money to buy a £5.9 million house. Barton withdrew the lawsuit in early 2016.
We can’t imagine the chutzpah required to sue one’s own parents, but Gary Coleman’s parents counter sued him right back after the diminutive actor took them to court for “misappropriating his money”, having found his ‘war chest’ was practically empty upon turning 18. The ‘Diff’rent Strokes’ star won the case and was awarded approximately £1 million damages, but after lawyers had taken their share, the actor squandered the rest on bad investments and filed for bankruptcy in 1999 with no more than £76 in his bank account.
The ‘Gossip Girl’ star has always had a strained relationship with her mother, who gave birth to her in prison. Later in life, Constance Meester fleeced her daughter for £5,700 a month which she claimed was going towards medical bills for Leighton’s brother, but it transpired she was using the cash to fund an increasingly lavish lifestyle, including cosmetic procedures. Leighton sued her own mother in 2011, and during the case she claimed that Constance threatened to sue her back for £2.3 million if she didn’t start sending her even more money every month. Leighton won the case and presumably now has one fewer Christmas card to write every year.
The formerly bright and perky child star took a turn for the Lohan in 2014 when she went on a series of mad rants on Twitter, some of them addressed to her parents and their alleged management of her money. “I’m so mad at my parents,” she tweeted. “They are withholding my belongings and money from me so I don’t have new clothes or enough money to rent an apartment.” Whether or not Bynes’ mother and father were actually mismanaging her finances is up for debate, as they were only given conservatorship over her estate after a mental health episode in which Amanda was hospitalised and kept under evaluation for 72 hours.
As Alex Dunphy, the smarty-pants kid in TV sitcom ‘Modern Family’, Ariel Winter was used to clashing with her parents, but it was nothing like the problems she faced with her mother in real life. Chrystal Workman was alleged to have abused her actress daughter both physically and emotionally, slapping her in the face and insulting her constantly. As far back as 2012, Winter tried to wrangle back control of her earnings but the court did not grant her request until 2014 when permanent guardianship was given to her older sister, Shannelle Gray, along with control over her earnings.
In 1999, the young ‘Contact’ actress accused her mother of squandering over a million dollars of her earnings, taking Debbie Malone to the Supreme Court because she was unable to pay her own taxes. At the same time, Jena Malone sought emancipation from her mother after claiming her acting income was being handled improperly; Mom then threatened to move Jena, then 14, to an apartment in Vegas, which would have effectively ended her career in Hollywood. Supposedly, Jena should have had an account with at least £275,000 in her name – instead it only contained £60,000. When she turned 15, Jena was granted emancipation and moved out to live on her own.
Teen dreamboat Corey Feldman must have thought his parents were magicians when he was growing up: they made his fortune disappear. Feldman began emancipation proceedings at age 15 – he claims he started the trend – and despite being told he was worth a million dollars, by the time court-ordered bank records were returned, it was revealed Feldman’s parents had only left him with £30,000. “I knew how to read a contract by 10 years old, but I didn’t know what it meant for somebody to come in and tell me they loved me and kiss me goodnight,” says Feldman.
The original child star, Temple was pulling in an astonishing rate of £190 per week from 20th Century Fox in the 1930s – now that’s a lotta lollipops – but Temple only saw 20 bucks of pocket money each week after her mother and father took their share. When she grew into her stardom, Temple was pulling down upwards of £7,600 a week, but again, her parents didn’t know how to handle her money and her fortune was largely squandered by her father, against whom Temple claimed she held no grudge. When she retired at age 22 with 44 feature films under her belt, the £2.4 million Shirley had acquired was actually more like £33,000.
Coogan was the kid that changed everything. The child star, who made his debut alongside Charlie Chaplin in 1921’s ‘The Kid’, leapt to stardom immediately; by the age of 18 he already had 19 movies to his name. Talented? Check. Famous? Check. Rich? Not so much. Jackie’s mother and stepfather took ALL of his $4 million fortune and didn’t give him a penny. “No promises were ever made to give Jackie anything,” said his mother. “Every dollar a kid earns before he is 21 belongs to his parents.” Coogan sued in 1938 but was only awarded £96,000. When his case got media attention, it led to the creation of the California Child Actor’s Bill, now commonly known as The Coogan Law, which requires that a child actor’s employer must ensure at least 15% of his or her earnings is placed in a trust for them and them only.