Family Feud

updated 02/02/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/02/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

In recent months the Carter family—teen heartthrob Aaron and his feuding parents, Robert and Jane—seem to have gone out of their way to make Michael Jackson and his clan look bland. Back in August Robert, 51, was arrested for battering Jane, 44, who had just moved out of the family's Florida Keys compound, agitated by what she alleged was Aaron's partying and his twin Angel's drug use. Four months later Aaron, 16, after discovering financial discrepancies, fired his mother as his manager and announced plans to seek legal emancipation from her control.

So it seemed a positive step when, on Jan. 13, the family announced it was reinstating Jane as steward of Aaron's career (while firing co-manager Lori Knight). "My parents and I sat down as a family this weekend and worked out all our disagreements," said Aaron. "My mom will always be my mom, and I'm happy she's back in my life and in my career." Peace, alas, was short-lived. Around 11 that night Jane, who lives in nearby Parkland with daughter Leslie, 17, allegedly broke into the family home and entered the bedroom that Robert was sharing with Ginger Elrod, 29, his girlfriend of six months. Elrod told the police (who were summoned by Aaron) that Jane grabbed her hair and threw a TV remote at her. Arrested for battery, Jane spent two hours in custody before Aaron posted her $280 bail. Says Jane: "We're just going to put this whole thing behind us and work on being one big, happy family."

They've got their work cut out for them. "This is a family that has had a lot of problems. They've fought with the passion you see in close families," says the Carter family's lawyer Scott Salomon. Despite—or perhaps because of—the successes of Aaron and his brother, Backstreet Boy Nick, 24, the Carters continue to make ugly accusations about each other in public. They've also run into their share of trouble with the law. In addition to Robert and Jane's respective arrests, Nick was arrested for resisting an officer in January 2002; daughter Bobbie Jean, 22, for punching a teenage girl in October 2002; and Aaron last November for carrying a large knife, which his father says is a collectible, in his car.

In interviews with People and Teen People in the last month, clan members have traded barbs, providing point and counterpoint. (Nick, now dating Paris Hilton, has kept his head down, telling Access Hollywood after the latest fracas, "The best thing I can do is stay out of it.") "I've probably made over $30 million," Aaron told Teen People in December, of which he cannot account for "a couple million." Saying that his trust in his mother had been broken, Aaron charged, "I am more of a cash cow than a son to her." Not so, declares Jane. "I never stole a single dime," she says, adding, "Aaron had no idea what to believe. He didn't know who he could trust."

In his prereconciliation remarks, Aaron dismissed Jane's concerns about his attendance at wild parties, saying, "I am not a cokehead—I'm an idol." Then he went on the offensive. "She never did the little things that matter to a kid, like taking me to my friend's house." Instead, he said, he'd come home to find her "riding around in a golf cart with a glass of wine." As for Angel's inflammatory descriptions of incidents that she said involved her mother's drinking, Jane responds, "Not true at all. That's ridiculous."

Since the family reunion, things have quieted a bit. Jane, who wants to pursue family therapy, says, "Bob and I have been married for 25 years. That's worth fighting for." Though, Robert says, "we can work together for the sake of the kids," he stresses that his marriage is over. "I have moved on," he says. "I am in love with someone else." At least they have a meeting of minds on one goal: Aaron, with Robert and Jane, is pursuing an Osbournes-style reality show, seemingly undaunted by the prospect of truth-revealing cameras in the family home. "I wish I could say that everything will be perfect from now on," says Jane, "but that's not reality."

Zena Burns and Jill Smolowe. Steve Helling in Orlando

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