Duggars Splinter amid Josh's Legal Drama: Family Isn't 'as Close as They Once Were,' Says Source
The Duggar family's insular world, meticulously cultivated and controlled by patriarch Jim Bob, appears to be splintering.
After oldest son Josh Duggar's arrest in April on charges of receiving and possessing child pornography, TLC cut all ties with the Duggars and pulled the plug on Counting On — fracturing the unity of the once tight-knit family and leaving their future uncertain.
"They aren't as close as they once were because of all of Josh's legal drama," a family source tells PEOPLE in this week's issue. "It's creating a lot of stress on them — although the majority of the family is acting like nothing has happened."
Jim Bob Duggar, 56, his wife Michelle, 54, and their 19 kids — the stars of two wildly popular reality shows about their deeply conservative Christian family — have weathered crises before.
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But what's unfolding now is different than the 2015 scandal that forced the network to cancel the family's first show, 19 Kids and Counting, after a 2006 police investigation surfaced revealing that Josh had been accused of molesting five underage girls (including at least two of his sisters) in 2002 and 2003 when he was 14.
Three months later, a massive data hack revealed that Josh was a dues-paying member of Ashley Madison, a cheating website, and he soon confessed to being unfaithful to his wife Anna Duggar and having an addiction to pornography. After some time in a faith-based rehabilitation center in Illinois, he returned to his family.
By October 2016, Jinger (Duggar) Vuolo along with her new husband Jeremy Vuolo, began to put distance between herself and her family by moving to Laredo, Texas, then to Los Angeles.
The following year, older sister Jill (Duggar) Dillard — married to recent law school grad Derick Dillard — quit Counting On and said she had learned that Jim Bob was earning $25,000 to $45,000 an episode for the family's participation while she'd never received any compensation.
The 30-year-old mom of two, who hasn't seen her parents in more than two years, told PEOPLE last year that she's at peace with lifestyle choices that would have been unthinkable years ago. "We wanted more control of our own lives," Jill said.
Most recently, news of Josh's arrest this year caused even further strain on the family's unity.
Jinger, 27, and Jeremy, 33, released statements saying they were "disturbed" by the child porn allegations against Josh and wanted "justice." It was a bold departure from Jim Bob and Michelle's statement, which read: "It is our prayer that the truth, no matter what it is, will come to light ... We love Josh and Anna and continue to pray for their family."
Currently, Josh, who has pleaded not guilty to charges of possessing and receiving child pornography, is staying with third party custodians, Lacount and Maria Reber, and is confined to their home via GPS tracking as he awaits his criminal trial on Nov. 30.
With his trial date just three months away, the family's eldest sibling is feeling confident he won't be convicted, according to the family source: "He really thinks he's going to get out of it."
And Jim Bob and Michelle "are very much standing by their son," says the source.
"Jim Bob always wants to sweep things under the rug," the family source shares. "He's never going to talk about the scandal because it's bad for business."
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