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'Modern Family' actress's mom denies abuse claims

The Associated Press, Friday, November 9, 2012, 11:30am (PST)
  • LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The mother of "Modern Family" actress Ariel Winter has denied accusations she was physically and emotionally abusive to her 14-year-old daughter and is asking a judge to reject an attempt to strip her of custody.

    Chrisoula Workman filed an objection to guardianship proceedings for the actress on Thursday and states she would be willing to undergo joint counseling with her daughter if it helped resolve the case.

    Winter, who plays Alex Dunphy on the hit ABC series, has been living with her older sister, Shanelle Gray, since early October, when a judge temporarily stripped Workman of custody and ordered her to have no contact with her daughter. The ruling came after attorneys for Gray stated in court filings that Winter has been the subject of ongoing physical and emotional abuse, enduring slaps and insults from her mother.

    "I have never slapped or hit Ariel," Workman writes in a court declaration. "I love Ariel very much and will do whatever is in her best interest."

    She calls recent family turmoil the result of "a teenager's rebellion." Her filing was accompanied by medical records and declarations from stylists and other acquaintances who state they have not seen any signs of abuse by Workman.

    "The court granted a temporary guardianship and I think any rational person will realize that the court simply doesn't see the sky falling but has some basis for granting a temporary guardianship," said attorney Michael Kretzmer, who represents Gray. "The matter hasn't been fully adjudicated and everybody will have their chance."

    Workman, who is estranged from Gray, claims that her older daughter is seeking a guardianship to advance her own career. Gray is also an actress who has appeared in the soap operas "One Life to Live" and "The Bold and the Beautiful," as well as other small roles in TV series.

    A judge has not permitted Gray any access to Winter's money, some of which must be set aside in a special account under a law meant to protect child actors.

    "There's no truth whatsoever to Shanelle obtaining this guardianship for purposes of advancing her career or for some other personal gain," Kretzmer said. "Shanelle is successful and has done very well in her own rights. This is a tragedy for her, too."

    "Ariel is a very wonderful 14-year-old who is fortunate to be in the process of building quite an acting career for herself," he said. "But she's still a 14-year-old lady. Whether she's the 14-year-old star of 'Modern Family' or she's just a 14-year-old in an everyday modern family, she doesn't deserve to have this family circumstance played out in the press."

  • A hearing on the guardianship is scheduled for Nov. 20. The court has appointed an independent attorney to represent Winter's interests.

    Winter has been acting since age 7, appearing several TV series, including "ER" and "Phineas and Ferb," and movies such as "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang," ''Ice Age: The Meltdown" and "ParaNorman."

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