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"Modern Family" star stuck in the middle of a custody battle

North Carolina fans of ABC's "Modern Family" may be interested to hear of the real-life child custody drama that one young actor's family has been caught up in. Ariel Winter, a 14-year-old star of the show, was removed from her mother's custody after the girl's adult sister alleged that their mother was abusing Ariel both physically and emotionally. Ariel's sister is now petitioning for full guardianship, asking the courts to permanently remove Ariel from her mother's custody.

The actor's sister claims that their mother struck and pushed Ariel, slapped her, called her offensive and hurtful names, insulted her appearance, attempted to "sexualize" her, and deprived her of food. The petition calls for Ariel to be placed in her sister's care, along with her $500,000 estate. The sister, apparently concerned that the girl's mother may not handle Ariel's bank accounts responsibly, is also asking that all funds be shifted to a new account.

Ariel's mother has flatly denied the allegations, claiming to have a doctor's note proving that Ariel was never abused. Nevertheless, Ariel was temporarily moved into her sister's custody until the guardianship hearing takes place later this month.

The show "Modern Family" celebrates the many forms that a family can take in today's world, and illustrates some of the problems that those families might face. This dispute clearly illustrates one of those problems in real life. Custody battles such as this one can be particularly difficult to manage in court, because there are so many complicating factors involved. Family law attorneys involved in the case will need to ascertain whether the girl actually was abused, and discover the abuse's extent. The court will also need to decide how to handle the girl's extensive finances, and determine whether the girl's sister will be a suitable guardian. As in all custody cases, the final decision should be made to support the best interests of the child.

Source: E! News, "Modern Family's Ariel Winter Removed From Mother's Home Under Allegations of Physical Abuse," Natalie Finn, Nov. 7, 2012

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