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Hayden Panettiere opens up about ‘heartbreaking’ decision to relinquish custody of her daughter

Hayden Panettiere has opened up about relinquishing custody of her daughter Kaya, with the actor revealing it was the “most heartbreaking thing” she’s ever had to do.

The Heroes star, 33, who shares daughter Kaya, seven, with ex Wladimir Klitschko, spoke candidly about the experience of giving up custody of her only child in a new episode of Facebook Watch’s Red Table Talk.

In a clip from the conversation, which was shared on Facebook ahead of Wednesday’s episode, host Adrienne Banfield Norris asked Panettiere about the agreement she came to that “it was best that her daughter be with her dad”.

“At first it was not because it wasn’t a discussion,” Panettiere said in response. “If [Klitschko] had come to me and said I think because of where you’re at right now and the struggles that you’re having it would be good for her to be over here with me for a while, to which, if I had probably had enough of a conversation, I would’ve said okay that makes sense, I get it, I’ll come there to visit and stuff like that.”

However, Panettiere says that because of the way the situation actually played out, it was “very upsetting”.

“I mean, it was the worst, signing those papers, it was like the most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever had to do in my life,” the 33 year old said, before clarifying that the papers were to give the former pro boxer, 46, full custody.

While speaking to Banfield Norris, Jada Pinkett Smith and guest host Kelly Osbourne, Panettiere then noted that she had initially planned to work on herself and “get better,” with the belief that “things would then change” and her daughter would “come to [her],” but that that “didn’t happen”.

“I was gonna go work on myself, I was gonna get better, and when I got better then things would change and she could come to me and I could have my time with her but that didn’t happen,” she said.

Panettiere and Klitschko welcomed their daughter in December 2014, with Kaya moving to Ukraine to live with her father in 2018. The decision for Kaya to live with Klitschko was made amid Panettiere’s struggle with addiction to alcohol and pills.

While reflecting on the decision for Kaya to live with her father while speaking to People in July 2022, the actor noted that it was the “hardest thing” she could do but the “best thing” for her daughter.

“It was the hardest thing I could do. But the best thing for my daughter was to make sure she was okay, take care of myself and make sure I could be a good mom to her. And sometimes that means letting go,” she said at the time.

Panettiere, who is now sober, also revealed at the time that she and her daughter continue to have a close relationship.

“She has a beautiful life,” she said of the child who is living with her father abroad amid Russia’s war on Ukraine. “I was just with her. She’s just an amazing child. She’s smart and she’s funny and for whatever reason, she still loves me.”

The Nashville star opened up about her addiction to opioids, and the impact it and postpartum depression had on her ability to parent her daughter, while speaking to People.

“I never had the feeling that I wanted to harm my child, but I didn’t want to spend any time with her,” she said. “There was just this grey colour in my life.”

While speaking to the outlet, Panettiere also revealed that her relationship with Klitschko began to break down due to her addiction and drinking, and that she had been in a “cycle of self-destruction” before the former couple decided to end their relationship and for Kaya to live in Ukraine with her father in 2018. Panettiere said she was able to become sober after taking part in trauma therapy and inpatient treatment.

Red Table Talk airs Wednesday at 12pm ET.