Celebs Who Sued Their Own Parents

They say there is no stronger bond than that of a parent and their child, but sadly, that bond can be easily broken when money is involved. Hollywood and professional sports are filled with young hopefuls looking to fulfill their dreams, and right behind them are their mothers and fathers, who we sometimes learn don't have their best interests at heart.

This phenomenon isn't new, however. In 1939, the state of California enacted the California Child Actor's Bill, otherwise known as Coogan Law or the Coogan Act, after child actor Jackie Coogan (who starred alongside Charlie Chaplin in The Kid) sued his parents at the age of 21 after they spent an estimated $4 million of his fortune in today's money. The law now "requires that a child actor's employer set aside 15% of the earnings in a trust account, and regulates the actor's schooling, work hours, and time off" (via Castifi).

Much like other laws, sometimes people find creative ways to get around them. And for these celebrities, a few of them had to find that out the hard way. Here are some celebs who sued their own parents.

Kobe Bryant's parents 'regret' their actions

In 2013, Lakers legend Kobe Bryant sued his parents, Joe and Pamela Bryant, and Goldin Auctions for selling his memorabilia without permission (via ESPN). According to the report, the items included "high school uniforms and two rings celebrating the 2000 Lakers championship team that were gifted at the time to Bryant's parents." The company reportedly gave Bryant's father a $450,000 advance that he used to build a house in Las Vegas. 

Bryant eventually reached a settlement with his parents and the auction house that allowed only 10% of the available items to be sold. His parents also offered a written apology. "We regret our actions and statements related to the Kobe Bryant auction memorabilia," they said in the statement. "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."

During a 2016 interview with ESPN, Kobe spoke about the fractured relationship he now had with his parents. "Our relationship is s**t," he says. "I say [to them], 'I'm going to buy you a very nice home, and the response is 'That's not good enough'?" he says. "Then you're selling my s**t?" The New York Post reported that Kobe and his father were "mending their years-old rift" at the time of Kobe's death in 2020.

Leighton Meester alleged her mother stole funds intended for her sick brother

In 2011, former Gossip Girl star Leighton Meester slapped a lawsuit against her mother, Constance Meester, for using the $7,500 she sent every month to care for her brother who suffers "severe medical issues" to purchase "plastic surgery, Botox and hair extensions," TMZ reported. The suit also claimed that her mother attempted to convince Leighton that they had entered an oral contract that would provide her "$10,000 a month for life" and threatened to sue Leighton for $3 million if she didn't increase her monthly payments.

"This whole thing's been really tough on Leighton," a source told People. "Her only concern has always been taking care of her brother. Leighton's really close with her brother and her dad – her parents are divorced. Leighton's a sweet girl – she cares about work, friends and family." However, her mother filed a countersuit, alleging that Leighton physically assaulted her and that more funds are needed since her brother requires around the clock care. "As a direct result of Leighton's breach, there are no funds to feed and care for Alexander," the countersuit claimed.

Later that year, her mother "submitted a motion to withdraw" and Leighton obtained a default judgment (via The Hollywood Reporter). In 2012, Daily News reported that a Los Angeles judge rejected her mother's countersuit entirely as Leighton was under no contractual obligation to provide financial assistance to her mother.

Billy Unger sued his father for blowing his earnings on his girlfriend

Former Disney Lab Rats star Billy Unger filed a lawsuit against his father and manager, William Unger, in 2015 for reportedly "[mishandling] nearly $400K of his earnings," TMZ revealed. The lawsuit stated that William spent $120,000 to take his girlfriend on vacation and "gouging him for a 33.3% commission," which is nearly triple the industry standard – and Billy wanted that money back.

The elder Unger dismissed the accusations as "false and frivolous" and stated that a "manipulative negative force in [Billy's] life whose sole focus is to administer pain" was to blame for the lawsuit. He added that he wanted to fix their broken relationship. However, according to E!, Billy claimed in the lawsuit that his father "utterly and completely lacks at all times lacked the skill, knowledge, experience to act either as an entertainment talent manager and or business manager." Billy's attorney stated that the actor "attempted to resolve this rather than filing a lawsuit, but those efforts were unsuccessful."

Billy's lawsuit also claimed that part of his earnings were used to pay $6,000 of his father's girlfriend's rent and "a full year premium for a $1 million dollar life insurance policy on Billy's life with only himself listed as the beneficiary."

Dominique Moceanu: 'It was a personal thing that got blown out of proportion'

In 1999, Olympic gymnast Dominique Moceanu already had a gold medal and a best-selling autobiography to her name — but she didn't have any money. The then-17-year old sued her parents for squandering away her more than $1 million in professional earnings. "As much money as she's made since age 10, to have little or nothing doesn't seem right to me," said Moceanu's lawyer at the time, Roy W. Moore (via The New York Times).

Friends and advisers of the teen gymnast alleged that her father, Dumitru Moceanu, was a controlling presence in his daughter's life and used her money to fund his lifestyle. ”Clearly there did not appear to be any other income coming into the family,” Stan Feig, Dominique's former agent, said. 'He felt he could build an empire off of her and go into management. It was silly.” A year prior to the lawsuit, The New York Times reported that Dominique received a temporary protective order against her father for reportedly stalking her with a private investigator.

However, in a 2004 interview with USA Today, Dominique stated that she and her parents had since reconciled, and they now enjoy a "great" relationship. "This issue was between my father and I, and a lot of people couldn't understand what was going on and wanted to make it a huge story," she said. "It was a personal thing that got blown out of proportion."

LeAnn Rimes has learned a valuable lesson

In 2000, 17-year old country music star LeAnn Rimes sued her father, Wilbur Rimes, and former co-manager Lyle Walker for allegedly stealing $7 million (roughly 30% of her income) from her by "duplicating and augmenting management/producer fees and practicing improper business tactics through ventures" over the course of five years, MTV News reported. "This is not the first time somebody has allowed his selfish interests to get in the way of the best interest of the children," LeAnn's attorney, Tom Rhodus, said. "It's not right just because it happens frequently."

The family drama turned ugly two years later when LeAnn's father filed a countersuit calling her a "spoiled brat" who spent "her days playing and shopping." The suit also claimed that even though LeAnn's record label bought her a new BMW, she spent lavishly on cars including "a $150,000 Ferrari" and a "$350,000 Bentley" that she and her then-boyfriend, actor Andrew Keegan, "immediately wrecked" (via CMT).

Fortunately, the pair reconciled in time for the singer's wedding to backup dancer Dean Sheremet in 2002. The singer explained that she didn't want to "carry on a burden" of hating her father (via ABC News). However, she learned a valuable lesson: "I go by the saying 'Money's the root of all evil.' And I definitely believe that the love for money is the root of all evil, because it changes people."

Rihanna sued her father for using her Fentry brand name

Rihanna amassed a $600 million fortune thanks in large part to her beauty brand, Fenty. But in 2019, the singer and makeup entrepreneur sued her father, Ronald Fenty, for using her trademarked name to solicit business on his behalf. In legal documents obtained by The Blast, the "Diamonds" singer alleges that her estranged father created an entertainment company, Fenty Entertainment, with another man and posed as Rihanna's representatives by booking "a $15 million tour in Latin America and two concerts at Staples Center in Los Angeles and T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas for $400,000."

Rihanna claims she didn't agree to the bookings and knew nothing about them. "Although Mr. Fenty is Rihanna's father, he does not have, and never has had, authority to act on Rihanna's behalf," the lawsuit read. The reports states that Rihanna had no choice but to file a lawsuit since the "many cease and desist letters to her father and his business partner" didn't stop them from their business practices. The report also states that her father attempted to trademark the Fenty name for a line of hotels but was denied by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office in 2018.

The trial date was set for August 22, 2020, but The Blast confirmed the trial was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic since Rihanna is, at the time of this writing, residing in the United Kingdom and witnesses scheduled to appear "are located across the United States."

Mischa Barton sued her mom for being 'a greedy stage mother'

In 2015, former The O.C. star Mischa Barton sued her mother, Nuala Barton, in excess of $25 million for "a greedy stage mother posing as a talent manager who, instead of acting in the best interest of her daughter/client, schemed to defraud her unsuspecting victim," according to a lawsuit obtained by the Los Angeles Times. The suit states that Barton, when she was just eight years old, reportedly entered into a verbal agreement with her mother to pay her 10% of her gross earnings in management fees, but alleges that her mother went wild with the money.

According to the lawsuit, the elder Barton created "various companies" to control her daughter's wealth, borrowed money against a house Mischa bought in 2006 and entered her into endorsement deals without her knowledge. Her mother also allegedly forged Mischa's signature so she would appear in the movie The Hoarders, while lying to her about the salary and keeping the difference for herself.

"Neither Nuala nor Barton's father, Paul, has had a job independent of Barton in over a decade," the lawsuit said. "Instead, they sit back expecting their daughter's hard work and dedication to her craft to support their lifestyle. Both comfortably reside in the $7.8 million Beverly Hills home that was purchased with Barton's funds while Barton is not welcome at the property."

Jena Malone went full circle with her mother

The Neon Demon star Jena Malone was just 14 years old when she sued her mother, Debbie Malone, for allegedly "squandering more than $1 million" of her career earnings on "business schemes," draining her college fund, and buying putting down payments on new homes for her father and three siblings, the Los Angeles Times reported in 1999.

Shortly after, Jena was granted full emancipation from her mother and did so to be "fully in control of my career and my finances and my life," she told People in 2001. Her mother claimed that she took "too much advice from people who didn't always have our best interest at heart." Although Jena's mother said she needed "to make my own way" instead of relying on her daughter, she said, "It is a degrading situation to be in, to have a daughter who makes a quarter of a million dollars when you've never made over $10,000."

In the same interview, the elder Malone revealed the pair were working to repair their relationship. "These are going to be little steps," she said. "I just keep hoping that we will get to that place where everything is forgiven." In a 2018 Instagram post, Jena shared a sweet photo of herself and her new child with her mother and revealed that she and her mom are now living together. "She helped and supported me thru one of the hardest transitions I've ever been through," she wrote.

Ariel Winter: 'Nobody controls you anymore'

In 2012, Modern Family star Ariel Winter found herself in the middle of a very public custody battle between her mother and older sister, Shanelle Gray. Citing emotional and physical abuse at the hand of their mother, Gray was given emergency custody of the then-14-year old Winter (via BBC). Two years later, a settlement was reached before the trial began, and Gray was granted full custody after their mother "agreed to drop her objections to the guardianship if her daughter could watch a video montage of family photos before court adjourned" (via U.S. News & World Report).

Winter announced on Twitter in 2015 that she was fully emancipated from her parents, "I am now officially emancipated!!! I'm really lucky I have an amazing support system and lovely people in my life who have given me the support and guidance to have been given this wonderful opportunity," she wrote.  "Most importantly I want to thank [Shanelle Gray] and my father for their special support regarding this matter, I really couldn't have done it without them."

During a 2016 appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Winter explained what that meant to her. "Nobody controls you anymore," she said. "You handle your own business affairs, your own living arrangements, your own money. Everything is sort of in your own hands." She added that her sister was "the best part of my life" who has "been there for me through absolutely everything."

Macaulay Culkin removed his parents as his legal guardians

After the release of Home Alone in 1990, there wasn't a bigger child star in the world than Macaulay Culkin. A mere four years later, his infamous stage dad Kit Culkin and his mother split and were locked in a high-profile custody battle to determine who would control Culkin's $17 million fortune. Well, Culkin rightfully decided he'd rather keep it himself, so he sued his parents and removed them as his legal guardians. During a 2018 appearance on Marc Maron's WTF Podcast, Culkin revealed he hasn't spoken to his father "in about a quarter of a century."

Culkin also revealed that once he wrapped Richie Rich in 1994, "one of the best things that ever happened" was his parents' split because he wanted to leave the industry due to being worked so hard by his father at such a young age. "I even wanted to take a break for a while and eventually I was like, 'I'm done guys, hope you all made your money because there is no more coming from me,'" he said. 

He also revealed that his father was physically abusive and "jealous" of him. "Everything that he tried to do in life, I excelled at before I was 10 years old," he said of his former actor father. During an interview with the Daily Mail in 2016, Kit gave a brief statement: "I don't consider him a son anymore."

Corey Feldman thinks 'child stars have nothing'

With roles in Gremlins, The Goonies, and Stand By Me, actor Corey Feldman was a household name before he was old enough to drive. His parents managed his career, so he thought he was in good hands, but he wasn't. "I got legally emancipated by going to the [Screen Actors Guild] producers pension, health and welfare plan myself at 14 years old and saying, 'What were my earnings, and what's left?'" Feldman told ABC News in 2011.

Feldman was informed he had earned roughly $1 million, but only $40,000 was left. "And guess what? When I went in for the emancipation trial, my father said, 'Since I spent my time with you on your last film and took it away from my office where I should have been focused, instead I'm going to ask you for that $40,000 back as repayment for the money that I lost in my business,'" Feldman explained. While court records of the trial are sealed, Feldman's father pushed back, claiming, "I love my son with all my heart however his lifestyle has impaired his memory," he said, adding the court only reimbursed him for business expenses.

Feldman added that "child stars have nothing," because they aren't shown genuine love when money is involved. "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," he said.