On Monday, Modern Family actress Ariel Winter appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show as a guest. It was the first time in five years that the 18-year-old had spoken to DeGeneres on the show, so the pair had a lot to catch up on.
As DeGeneres noted, at the age of 17, following a three-year legal battle, Winter became fully emancipated from her family. During the intervening period, her older sister, Shanelle Gray, acted as her guardian. Although Winter told DeGeneres that she did not wish to go into the reasoning behind her decision, she did say that "it's been much better for me emotionally and physically to be on my own and have a better, safer household and support system."
A minor is emancipated when he or she is granted the right to act independently of their parents.
"You become your own entity. Nobody controls you anymore," Winter explained. "You handle your own business affairs, your own living arrangements, your own money. Everything is sort of in your own hands."
Individual states have different laws regarding emancipation. In Winter's home state of California, requirements for emancipation include either marriage, joining the military or being financially independent.
As a successful actress, Winter was in the perfect position to seek an emancipation. Other children in potentially abusive households are not always so fortunate. She told DeGeneres that she makes a point of sharing her experiences publicly because she knows that others are going through similar situations.
The actress also spoke about grateful she is that her older sister gained custody of her, which led to her eventual emancipation.
"She's been the best part of my life," Winter said. "She really is my best friend. She is the most important thing to me. She's been there for me through absolutely everything, and I love her so much. I count on her for everything."