A judge said today he will hold a full hearing with testimony in light of a challenge by the mother of teen actress Ariel Winter to the $160,000 in attorneys' fees being sought from the "Modern Family'' star's estate by her older sister, who is serving as her temporary guardian.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas scheduled the hearing for June 12, when he will weigh evidence for and against Shanelle Gray's bid for $160,000 in fees to pay her attorneys, who successfully won Gray temporary guardianship of the 15-year-old actress on Oct. 3.
The appointment came after the actress -- who plays brainy teen Alex Dunphy on the Emmy Award-winning ABC series -- contended she had been subjected to physical and mental abuse by her mother, Chrisoula Workman. She has vehemently denied the allegations and filed multiple declarations from family friends who said they had never seen any abuse.
Workman attended today's hearing, but her daughters were not present.
In a sworn declaration filed Feb. 15 with Levanas, Workman says lawyers for Kolodny & Anteau should receive no more than $50,000 from Ariel's estate. She maintains that her younger daughter's ability to pay for her high school and college tuition could be jeopardized "if her estate is depleted in ... a significant way.''
In a sworn statement filed last Friday, Gray defended her attorney's fee request and said she has no personal interest in obtaining her sister's money for her own personal use.
"Any and all fees which were incurred in this action in my name were incurred for Ariel's benefit and for no other purpose whatsoever,'' the 34-year-old Gray stated. "This has been an extremely complicated matter in that there were numerous business and personal circumstances that were necessarily a part of the guardianship proceedings.''
The circumstances included finalizing the teen's renegotiated contract with "Modern Family,'' efforts to avoid damage to the actress' reputation by other family members and to ensure her ability to work without interference from her mother, according to Gray's statement.
Gray's lead attorney, Michael Kretzmer, told Levanas he had hoped for a ruling today.
"We've invested an enormous amount of time in this case, which is certainly not your garden variety guardianship,'' Kretzmer said.
But Levanas said he was not treating Winter's case as an ordinary guardianship.
"I'm very aware of what this case is,'' Levanas said.
The judge said he had no choice but to hold a hearing because of Workman's objection.
Gray's lawyers say Ariel's new agreement with the ABC show brought significantly more money to her estate and that the benefit was jeopardized for a time by Workman's alleged interference.
Workman's declaration states she will make a bid for removal of Gray as her younger daughter's guardian on March 29, when the judge is scheduled to hold a status hearing.
"I intend to present evidence demonstrating that this guardianship proceeding should never have occurred in the first place,'' Workman says in her court papers.
But Kretzmer said that because March 29 is only a status conference, there will be no change in Winter's guardianship without a hearing similar to what is planned concerning the attorneys' fees.
Levanas put Glenn Workman, father of Gray and Winter, in control of the actress' finances in December.