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Drew Barrymore, Macaulay Culkin among child stars emancipated from their parents
December 28 2023, 08:00

Drew Barrymore and Macaulay Culkin are among the child stars who chose to strike out on their own as teenagers.

Barrymore was just 14 when she claimed her mother "lost credibility" as her caregiver. Meanwhile, Culkin has called his split from his parents at the age of 14 "one of the best things" that ever happened to him. 

Here's a look at child stars who won emancipation during their Hollywood careers.


Barrymore won emancipation from her parents at the age of 14, a move the actress has said she made in order to bypass some child labor laws. "That’s a big consideration when people are casting you," she told People magazine in 1991.

At the time, Barrymore was living with her mother, Jaid Barrymore, and was estranged from her father, John Barrymore.

"It’s no secret that I had to part ways from my mother because we had driven our relationship into the ground. She had lost credibility as a mother by taking me to Studio 54 (so wrong, but so fun) instead of school," Barrymore wrote in her memoir, "Wildflower." 

"And I was out of control due to working since I was 11 months old and what that had done to my childhood, which made me grow up too fast. Work was a very positive thing in my life, and sadly it had been taken away, because my mother also put me in an institution because she felt helpless. But when people found out, they just wrote me off as damaged goods, and I sadly understood that."

"I was never unprofessional, but I was on a hiatus from being employable. And when I turned 14 and wanted to start my life over, I wanted to do things on my own terms."

Barrymore claimed her mother was in "full support" of her emancipation.

Macaulay Culkin began acting as a child in the 1980s. The actor has six other siblings, including actor Kieran Culkin, who were also put to work in the acting industry with New York productions. A neighbor of the family, who worked as a stage manager, connected Macaulay's family to the business.

At the age of 14, Culkin emancipated himself from his parents. At the time, the actor claimed his father had mismanaged the money from his early movies and abused him.

"Our 1994 divorce was one of the best things that's ever happened as it led to me leaving the industry," Culkin said on Marc Maron's podcast in 2018. "I 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.'"

Culkin's brother, Kieran, later denied their father had been abusive but conceded, "He wasn't a good person and, yeah, probably not a good parent" in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.


Love went to court at age 16 and emancipated herself from her parents following years of bouncing around between foster homes and a mother who struggled with addiction.

At one point, Love's family moved to New Zealand and left her behind, the musician's mom, Linda Carroll, previously told The Guardian. In 2006, Carroll wrote a book about life – including insight into how Love was as a child.

"Courtney came into the world with a very challenging temperament from the beginning," Carroll told the outlet while promoting her book. "But my chaotic lifestyle contributed to it."

Following her emancipation, Love first became a stripper and then made her way into rock stardom. The musician met Kurt Cobain in the '90s, and they married in 1992. The couple welcomed a child – Frances Bean Cobain – before he died by suicide in 1994.

Frances Bean would later become emancipated from Love at the age of 17.

Rose McGowan grew up in an Italian cult before her father moved the family to the United States when the actress was 10. At 13, she ran away from home, becoming homeless for a while before returning.

"It’s a pretty brutal experience to be that young and to be that scared," McGowan told The Irish Times about experiencing homelessness at her age. "Safety, I think, is something I don’t know, and I’ve never known. The fear will always be there. It’s a rock-bottom, late-at-night fear. It’s the hamster wheel in your head that goes around and around at three in the morning."

By age 15, McGowan had filed for emancipation.

"By then I was living in the back room of a friend’s house in Hollywood and had about 25 cents to my name, so I represented myself in court," McGowan has said, via The Guardian. "I needed to have control of my own life."


Alicia Silverstone's emancipation at the age of 15 had nothing to do with either of her parents and everything to do with child labor laws.

"If you’re emancipated, it means you’re legally 18 and can work crazy hours," Silverstone previously told Rolling Stone.

At the time, Silverstone was working on her first movie, "The Crush."

"It’s too hard to get emancipated in LA, so my dad tracked down a place in Oakland. I had to stand before a judge and tell him I was living on my own, which was not true, and also tell him I was self-supporting, which was true. And then after sophomore year, I quit high school."

Silverstone, who went on to star in "Clueless" and "Blast from the Past," noted her parents were "concerned" about the legal move. "They were afraid I would hold it under their nose and say, 'You can’t tell me what to do, I’m emancipated.' But nothing really changed," she said.

Corey Feldman, who began auditioning for acting roles at the age of 3, also went through the emancipation process.

"The Goonies" and "The Lost Boys" star filed for emancipation at 15 with only $40,000 to his name after experiencing success as a young teen.

"My parents were both very abusive and very selfish and were more interested in what was happening with themselves than what was happening with my life," Feldman told The Hollywood Reporter in a 2016 interview. "My manager father sued me for $40,000 when I tried to get emancipated, his reasoning being that he was taking time away from his business to be on the set with me."

Feldman's mom denied the claims in an interview with Inside Edition.

"It's very hurtful and it's very sad," she told the outlet.

Feldman later claimed he had been sexually assaulted by men in the entertainment industry he had been introduced to by his father.

"One of the guys, the main guy who molested me, he actually was an employee of my father’s," he told THR. "My father hired this man and this man coaxed me into trying every single drug that I ever tried. He says, ‘Hey I’m going to be your best friend. I’ll take you to Disneyland, I’ll take you to the Comedy Store.’ He was my assistant, my driver, my chaperone, and also basically my guardian."