Jill Duggar Dillard says family's strict rules, alleged deception led to estrangement

The former reality show star talks about her father's pressure to save face.

September 13, 2023, 4:27 PM

After years of appearing on reality TV as the doting members of the Duggar family, Jill Duggar Dillard and her husband Derick Dillard are speaking out against what they say was years of manipulation and greed.

The couple spoke to "Nightline" following the release of Duggar Dillard's new tell-all memoir "Counting the Cost," and revealed details about the pressures she feels her parents, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, put on them when the reality show "19 Kids and Counting" was on the air.

The show's wholesome veneer masked a damaging culture of control, the couple said.

PHOTO: Jill Duggar Dillard and Derek Dillard speak with Juju Chang about her new memoir.
Jill Duggar Dillard and Derek Dillard speak with Juju Chang about her new memoir.
ABC News

"Anyone who is making decisions for themselves that the parents don't give their blessing, that's seen as rebellious. So even if you're an adult, even if you've been an adult for a long time, you're married with kids, if your parents don't give their blessing, then you're not honoring them," Duggar Dillard told "Nightline."

The show centered around the conservative Christian family, their relationships and other daily lives, and their strict upbringing on everything from how they dressed to "courting."

Duggar Dillard was a teen when the show started and would go on to star in the spinoff "Jill and Jessa: Counting On," with her sister Jessa.

Duggar Dillard filmed over 200 episodes and over a dozen specials with her family and she contends that she and her siblings never saw any money from it.

She wrote in her book that she received a $175,000 check after she and her husband confronted Jim Bob Duggar and fought for the money.

PHOTO: Jill Duggar Dillard and Derek Dillard speak with Juju Chang about her new memoir.
Jill Duggar Dillard and Derek Dillard speaks with "Nightline."
ABC vNews

"People would say…, I'm so glad the girls are getting something, …and people didn't know that [the show] was called 'Jill and Jessa Counting On,' but Jill and Jessa, and their families aren't getting any kind of financial benefit from this," Dillard said.

Dillard and Duggar Dillard also claim their courtship and marriage were always under control by Jim Bob Duggar, who allegedly Dillard said made him run every aspect of the relationship by him.

On the night before their 2014 wedding, the couple claimed Jim Bob Duggar surprised his 23-year-old daughter with the signature page of a contract that she says locked her into years of filming.

"I feel like I was tricked into it," she said.

Dillard, an attorney, called the contract fraud.

"We wouldn't have agreed to [it] based on the terms that were given," he said.

The couple said father Jim Bob Duggar was also manipulative after eldest son Josh Duggar, was identified in a sex abuse scandal that destroyed the family’s wholesome reputation.

In 2015, Josh Duggar, the family's eldest son, acknowledged he molested five girls when he was just 14, including four of his sisters. Duggar Dillard says she told authorities about the abuse.

Duggar Dillard said she and her sister Jessa felt like they were forced to give an interview to Fox News following the 2015 revelation to "save face."

"I didn't want to be there. Like, I was doing it out of obligation," she said.

Josh Duggar never faced charges for the alleged acts, however, he was convicted of receiving child pornography in 2021 and is now serving 12 and a half years in prison.

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar told "Nightline" in a statement, "We love all of our children very much. As with any family, few things are more painful than conflicts or problems among those you love. We’ve aimed to deal honorably with our children, our finances, and our other endeavors. While imperfect, it is our intent and desire to live a life that honors Christ. We do not believe the best way to resolve conflicts, facilitate forgiveness and reconciliation, or to communicate through difficulties is through the media or in a public forum so we will not comment further. As the future unfolds, we will continue to love our family, pray for them, and enjoy every moment gifted to us to be parents and grandparents."

Duggar Dillard said that small acts of independence such as wearing pants or getting a nose ring were met with hostility by her parents.

Eventually, the couple, who have three children, stopped filming the spinoff and Duggar Dillard said she has become estranged from her father.

"I think besides weddings and funerals, that was the only time that I'd seen [Jim Bob Duggar] after Freddie [the couple's youngest son] was born, in the last five years, probably," Dillard said.

The couple said they are focused on raising their children on their own terms.

"You need to give yourself grace…. but recognize what you can have, those positive and negative experiences. They can coexist. The highs do not have to be automatically erased by the lows," Duggar Dillard said.