Stars Who Emancipated Themselves From Toxic Parents

The trajectory for a successful star is almost a cliché. 1) Talented kid gets cast in movies, makes a ton of money. 2) The kid's parents watch over the money on behalf of their little meal ticket because they're a minor. 3) Parents can't handle the lure of all that cash and squander it. 4) The kid finds out that the parent(s) blew through all the money they sacrificed their childhood to earn. 5) Kid files for and receives "legal emancipation," which means they become adults in the eyes of the law, and their parents have no control over them.

Obviously, it's terrible when a child has to involve a judge to keep their parents out of their lives and their pockets, but for some celebrities, this last resort was the best option. Not only does emancipation put a stop to potential financial crimes, it also provides distance from a parent who may have been toxic in far worse ways. Here are some former child stars who legally separated from Mom and Dad.

Ariel Winter's legally mandated modern family

Ariel Winter plays Alex Dunphy, the extremely intelligent middle-child of a traditional two-parent nuclear family in the hit TV sitcom Modern Family, but in real life, her family situation has been less rock solid and no laughing matter.

According to Us Weekly, Winter's saga started in 2012, when officials from child and family services removed the then-14-year-old from the home of her mother, Chrisoula "Chrystal" Workman, following allegations of physical and emotional abuse. Winter went to live with her sister, Shanelle Gray, who was named permanent guardian for the then-16-year-old actress in May 2014. Winter and Gray apparently got along great. 

"I love you more than words can even describe and I'm so lucky to have you as my sister. You're an amazing mother, an amazing sister, and an amazing wife, among many other things," Winter wrote on Instagram for Mother's Day in 2015. 

Nevertheless, an increasingly mature and wealthy Winter filed to be completely free of the domestic influence of others and was officially emancipated at the age of 17.

Macaulay Culkin wanted to be home alone

Culkin was the biggest child star of the early 1990s. He starred in, and totally carried, the 1990 Christmas classic Home Alone, which became the highest-grossing comedy of all time. Culkin followed it up with hits such as Home Alone 2, Richie Rich, and My Girl, amassing as much as $50 million in earnings by the time puberty reared its ugly head. 

In 1995, Culkin's parents, Patricia Brentrup and Kit Culkin, split up after 20 years, reported the Los Angeles Times. They weren't married, so it made for tricky legal proceedings when it came to custody of Macaulay and his siblings, as well as control of the young star's career and finances — his parents were also his managers. 

That was all moot in 1997, when Macaulay struck out with his own divorce proceedings and financial claims. According to People, the 16-year-old was granted emancipation, citing his father's mismanagement of his earnings and mistreatment (He allegedly made the young millionaire sleep on the couch.) Culkin was granted his independence and what remained of his money — about $17 million.

The sorry story of one of the two Coreys

Of the triumvirate of '80s Coreys —Feldman, Haim, and Hart — Corey Feldman was probably the most notable. He starred alongside Hart in a number of late '80s teen flicks, including The Lost Boys, License to Drive, and Dream a Little Dream. Feldman also served as the sole Corey in truly great movies such as Stand By Me and The Goonies, and in the '90s, he became a well-known friend and associate of Michael Jackson. In fact, Feldman was so dedicated to the King of Pop that he often dressed like Jackson in public

However, despite starring in all those hit films, Feldman discovered in 1987 that he had only $40,000 in savings, reported Entertainment Weekly. Where did it go? According to the actor, his fortune was allegedly squandered by his emotionally abusive mother, Sheila, an ex-Playboy model who reportedly suffered from addiction and mental health issues. Feldman emancipated himself from his mom at age 15, although he has continued to be plagued by drug addiction, failed relationships, and the fallout from years of alleged sexual abuse.

Rose McGowan rose up out of a horrible situation

In the wake of the #metoo and TimesUp movement, Charmed and Grindhouse star Rose McGowan has re-emerged with a second career as one of the "Silence Breakers" in the fight against Hollywood's toxic masculinity and rape culture. But she's been fighting back for years against the powers that dared to contain her. 

As detailed in her 2018 memoir, Brave, McGowan was raised by the Children of God, aka The family, an international religious organization that once counted other celebrities such as River Phoenix and Joaquin Phoenix as members. The organization is commonly referred to as a cult, and a particularly terrible one that allegedly encourages pedophilia and manipulates young female members for recruitment purposes. McGowan was raised within the Children of God group in Italy and claims she struggled to have her basic needs met, such as food and shelter. She said her family moved to the United States when she was older, which is when her father allegedly grew verbally abusive and her mother grew absent. At age 15, McGowan legally emancipated herself from her parents.

Jena Malone wants to be alone

A consistently working performer since childhood, Jena Malone doesn't usually show up in the gossip rags. She typically lets her solid work speak for itself, having starred in excellent movies such as Contact, Into the Wild, Saved!, Stepmom, and three Hunger Games films. Malone has worked so much and so consistently that she seems like the kind of teen performer who would have filed for emancipation just so she could legally work longer hours and skirt child labor laws. (That's why Juliette Lewis and Alicia Silverstone "divorced" their parents.) But Malone isn't on one of those boring old lists — she's on this list, and for good reason. 

According to People, the 15-year-old she successfully petitioned a Los Angeles court to emancipate her from her mother, claiming that mama dearest "mismanaged" the actress' substantial earnings, which is to say that mom allegedly squandered hundreds of thousands of dollars buying stuff for herself and loaning money to relatives that was never paid back.

Edward Furlong is not your cash cow

At a certain point in time, Edward Furlong was the next Johnny Depp or River Phoenix — a teen idol who had the acting talent to go far in films. He's best known for portraying humanity's future savior, John Connor, in 1991's Terminator 2: Judgment Day. He also dazzled in American Heart, American History X, and Before and After. Today, he's better known for his rocky personal life, which includes multiple domestic violence allegations and a restraining order violation. This kind of personal turmoil has followed him around since childhood. 

According to Entertainment Weekly, Furlong was reportedly discovered by a casting director in 1990 while hanging out at the Pasadena Boys Club. At the time, his mother had split up with Furlong's stepfather and left her son to live with her siblings. From 1991 to 1994, which just so happened to coincide with the rise of Furlong's career, several different parties fought to be his guardian, including his mother, his aunt, a court-appointed attorney, and a woman 13 years his elder named Jacqueline Domac, who was Furlong's stand-in on Terminator 2, then his tutor, then his girlfriend. Furlong eventually rejected them all, applying for and receiving legal emancipation before he turned 18.

Bijou Phillips was emancipation dreamin'

While Bijou Phillips has enjoyed a modeling career, released some music, and appeared in a bunch of movies and TV shows, she's probably better known for being scandal adjacent. Her husband is Danny Masterson — the guy from That '70s Show and The Ranch who is facing rape charges. Her half-sister is '70s star Mackenzie Phillips, who bailed on her hit show One Day at a Time because of ongoing drug problems

Bijou and Mackenzie have a dad in common: John Phillips of the legendary vocal group The Mamas and the Papas ("California Dreamin'"). In 2009, Mackenzie claimed she had an on-again, off-again affair with her father, so it's not surprising that Bijou filed for emancipation when she was just 14 years old. That enabled her to live on her own in New York to model for Calvin Klein.

Drew Barrymore was lost then found

Drew Barrymore is now best known as the winsome and charming star of The Wedding Singer, 50 First Dates, and, okay, The Santa Clarita Diet. We've had her around for so long that it's easy to forget that she was also a child star. Barrymore played the adorable Gertie in E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial and a not-so-adorable fire starter in Firestarter. She came from a long line of entertainment Barrymores, a venerable family that produced four generations of stage and screen talent, including Lionel and Ethel Barrymore. But a famous family tree doesn't always make for a stable family line, nor a stable life.

Drew's father, John Barrymore, was apparently of the absentee variety, leaving his little girl in the care of her mother, wild child Jaid Barrymore, who allegedly squandered her daughter's earnings and took her to Studio 54 when she was a child, according to Radar Online. All of that left Drew flailing. As detailed in her almost unbelievable memoir, Little Girl Lost, Drew was so addicted to booze, drugs, and partying that she'd already been to rehab twice by the age of 13. After completing the program, she legally emancipated herself from her troubled mother at age 14. 

Decades have passed, but Drew still supports her mother financially. "I am grateful to this woman for bringing me into this world, and it would crush me to know she was in need anywhere," she wrote in her second memoir, Wildflower (via Vulture). "It is not who I am to harbor any anger for the fact that our life together was so incredibly unorthodox."

No love lost for Courtney Love

Frances Bean Cobain is rock royalty — the one and only daughter of Kurt Cobain of Nirvana and Courtney Love of Hole. Love raised Frances alone after Cobain's reported suicide in 1994, but her mother has made more controversy than music over the last two decades, which created a tumultuous childhood for Frances. 

According to an in-depth piece in Vanity Fair, Love wrote rambling posts on social media over the years claiming that she'd had $250 million stolen from her, but she couldn't figure out how. She claimed there was some kind of vast, insidious conspiracy that involved lawyers, accountants, record labels, forgery, identity theft, and faked Social Security numbers. She simultaneously fought Nirvana members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic for years over Nirvana's legacy and finances. Things came to a head in 2009, when 17-year-old Frances filed for a temporary restraining order against Love, as well as for legal emancipation. 

According to sources familiar with the legal filings, Love's obsession with what she calls "the fraud" left Frances feeling like she didn't have a very stable home life ... or mother. As part of the emancipation, Love also had to give up her status as advisory trustee over the Frances Bean Cobain Irrevocable Trust.