In 1942, he married Hollywood starlet Ava Gardner, but the two were divorced well before she became a star in her own right. While stationed in the military in Alabama in 1944, Rooney met and married local beauty queen Betty Jane Phillips. This marriage ended in divorce after he returned from Europe at the end of World War II. His subsequent marriages to Martha Vickers (1949) and Elaine Mahnken (1952) were also short-lived and ended in divorce. In 1958, Rooney married Barbara Ann Thomason, but tragedy struck when she was murdered in 1966. Falling into deep depression, he married Barbara's friend, Marge Lane, who helped him take care of his young children. The marriage lasted only 100 days. He was married to Carolyn Hockett from 1969 to 1974, but financial instability ended the relationship. Finally, in 1978, Rooney married Jan Chamberlin, his eighth wife. As of 2011[update], they live in Westlake Village, California. Both are outspoken advocates for veterans and animal rights.
After battling drug addiction and a near bankruptcy caused by gambling and bad investments, Rooney became a born-again Christian in the 1970s, after an unusual encounter with a busboy in a casino coffee shop. Rooney shared his religious beliefs on Jim and Tammy Bakker's Christian television show, The PTL Club.
Rooney's oldest child, Mickey Rooney, Jr., is a born-again Christian, and has an evangelical ministry in Hemet, California. He and several of Rooney's other eight children have worked at various times in show business. One of them, actor Tim Rooney, died in 2006, aged 59.
On September 21, 2005, just days after the death of Liza Minnelli's ex-stepfather, Sid Luft, where he attended his service, Rooney celebrated his 85th birthday at the Regent Theater in Arlington, Massachusetts, where his wife appeared with him in a play titled Let's Put On A Show.
On September 23, 2010, Rooney celebrated his 90th birthday at Feinstein's at Loews Regency in the Upper East Side of New York City. Among the people who were attending the party were: Donald Trump, Regis Philbin, Nathan Lane, Tony Bennett and Jan Rooney, who threw the party for him. In December 2010 he was honored as Turner Classic Movies Star of the Month.
On February 16, 2011, Rooney was granted a temporary restraining order against Christopher Aber, one of Jan Rooney's two sons from a previous marriage. On March 2, 2011 Rooney appeared before a special U.S. Senate committee that was considering legislation to curb elder abuse. Rooney stated that he was financially abused by an unnamed family member. On March 27, 2011, all of Rooney's finances were permanently handed over to lawyers over the claim of missing money.
In April 2011, the temporary restraining order that Rooney was previously granted was voluntarily withdrawn as a result of a confidential settlement between Rooney and his stepson. Christopher Aber and Jan Rooney have denied all the allegations