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Fight over 'Modern Family' star returns to court

  • Article by: ANTHONY McCARTNEY
  • Associated Press
  • November 20, 2012 - 1:27 AM

LOS ANGELES - A judge is scheduled to wade into the messy family dynamics of teen actress Ariel Winter and determine whether the "Modern Family" star should stay away from her mother, who has been described in court filings as physically and emotionally abusive.

At a hearing Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas will consider whether the 14-year-old should continue living with her sister, who has temporary guardianship of the actress.

The judge will have more information to consider than he did on Oct. 3, when he temporarily stripped Chrisoula Workman of custody of her daughter. Workman has denied all accusations of abuse and filed more than two dozen declarations from friends, acquaintances, stylists and others who say they've never witnessed any abuse.

Winter's father, Glenn Workman, also filed an objection to the guardianship late Monday, stating he wants a better relationship with his daughter and would be willing to care for her.

Winter has been in the care of her adult sister, Shanelle Gray, who was removed from Chrisoula Workman's care in the 1990s amid accusations of abuse. Chrisoula Workman contends Gray was a rebellious teen who left home and that she is contending with a similar situation with Winter, who has been acting since age 7 and currently stars as Alex Dunphy on the hit ABC series "Modern Family."

People on the show's set are concerned about Winter's wellbeing and have been sneaking her food, according to in-court statements by Gray's attorney, Michael Kretzmer.

Gray's filing states Chrisoula Workman has repeatedly slapped Winter and engaged in emotional abuse, including name-calling.

"The allegations made by Ariel are false," said Chrisoula Workman's attorney Anita Gumm. "We really feel she's just a rebellious teen and wants her independence. It's our hope that the court terminates the guardianship. Both parents want Ariel home. Shanelle is not suitable to be a guardian."

Glenn Workman's filing Monday does not address the abuse allegations, but states he believes his daughter should be returned to live with Chrisoula Workman, or that he be allowed to raise her.

"I want to provide for her a calm loving home environment that is a retreat from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood; a place where she can think and relax without any distractions," Glenn Workman wrote. "This whole situation has turned into a circus and places Ariel in a position she should not have to be in."

Kretzmer declined to comment on Glenn Workman's filing.

He has previously told The Associated Press that it is unfortunate that the case became public, but that Winter was removed from her mother's custody for good reasons. "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," he said last week.

During a contentious court hearing Workman lashed out at Gray, called Kretzmer a moron and accused Winter of screaming her and hitting her.

"I think what we've got is a situation that's not healthy, at least for a temporary ... basis," Levanas said in early October. He ordered child welfare workers to conduct an investigation and appointed an attorney to represent Winter's interests.

Workman's attorney has also scheduled a deposition of Gray for early December, and a review of Winter's finances will be conducted. Currently, Gray has no access to Winter's money, some of which should be in a special account meant to protect the earnings of child actors.

Gumm and Workman have cited Gray's finances as a reason why she should not be granted guardianship of her sister. But Kretzmer denied last week that money was an issue in the case.

"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."

Winter has been acting since age 7, appearing in 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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Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP

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