At age 17, Ariel Winter was emancipated
, and says her life is "better" for it.
"Nobody controls you anymore," she said. "You handle your own business affairs, your own living arrangements; your own money."
Winter says that her emancipation didn't come easy. In 2012, Winter's older sister, Shanelle Gray, was granted temporary custody following allegations that her sibling had "been the victim of ongoing physical abuse (slapping, hitting, pushing) and emotional abuse (vile name calling, personal insults about minor and minor's height, attempts to 'sexualize' minor, deprivation of food, etc.) for an extended period of time by the minor's mother, Chrisoula 'Crystal' Workman." Winter's mother denies these accusations.
"Well, actually from 14-17 it was a legal custody battle," she explained to DeGeneres. "My sister was granted temporary custody first, and then when I was 17, in the beginning of the year, she was granted permanent custody. Then, to kind of just move forward with the process and end it all together, we got me emancipated and I could just handle my own affairs."
The 18-year-old actress
does admit that not having that parental influence in her life has been difficult, but insists that emancipation was best for her. "It’s most definitely hard to grow up in the industry, but just grow up in any instance without a mother from a very young age," she said. "It has been very sad for me, but at the same time it's been much better for me emotionally and physically to be on my own and have a better, safer household and support system."
While her mother appeared on Dr. Phil to share her side of the story, Winter says she's not interested in talking about their relationship publicly. "I don't really talk about the reason that I don’t speak to my mother," she said. "It's kind of been publicized, but the reason I don't really share that is because I want to give her the same respect that she didn’t give to me publicly."
As for how she felt about her mother appearing on the talk show, Winter added, "It just really didn't try to fix anything with me. It just tried to make herself look better and I’m not interested in that. People can make their own judgments. I did what I had to do for myself."
While the TV star's relationship with her mother is still rocky, she has a lot of love for her sister. "She’s been the best part of my life. She really is my best friend. She’s the most important thing to me," she said of Gray. "She’s been there for me through absolutely everything. And I just love her so much. I count on her more than anything."