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Inside HGTV Star Nicole Curtis’ Custody Battle After Her Very Private Pregnancy

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After a very private pregnancy, Rehab Addict’s Nicole Curtis is now embroiled in a very public custody battle.

The HGTV star, who just released a memoir, Better Than New: Lessons I’ve Learned from Saving Old Homes (And How They Saved Me), opened up to PEOPLE about the challenges that have shaped her journey from cleaning houses to transforming them on TV, and her current battle: fighting for her son.

Curtis was already one of the network’s biggest stars, when she became pregnant with her second son, Harper, now 16 months old. Given her increased visibility and dwindling privacy, she explains, she decided to keep her pregnancy a secret, going so far as to hide her belly completely when filming Rehab Addict in 2015. “Having my newborn child’s face plastered all over social media . . . that wasn’t for me,” she says of her decision. “It wasn’t anything strategic. It was just one of those moments where I was like, this isn’t anyone else’s time and space; this is mine.”

Lauren Noess
Lauren Noess

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Curtis split with Harper’s father, who she refers to as Chad in Better Than New, but whose real name is Shane Maguire, after an on-again off-again romance that ended shortly before she discovered she was pregnant.

“I’ve had good relationships and positive experiences and I wish they were all like that, but unfortunately they aren’t,” Curtis tells PEOPLE.

In the book, she describes Maguire’s reaction to her pregnancy as unexpected and writes that she planned to move forward raising the child on her own. (Maguire’s lawyer counters that his client “couldn’t have been happier to find out he was the father to his son.”)

Maguire filed for paternity and joint custody in December 2015, claiming via a statement from his lawyers that “Ms. Curtis would not confirm or deny whether he was the father.” A court ordered DNA test came back 99.4% positive. He was awarded both, according to The Detroit News.

RELATED: Nicole Curtis’ Secret Pregnancy, Her Hooters Past and 3 Other Mysteries Revealed in the HGTV Star’s New Book

Curtis tried and failed to modify the agreement so that Maguire could not have overnight custody of Harper until he’s 2 years old.

“I’ve always been a proponent of co-parenting and children first and it’s just kind of backfiring right now,” she tells PEOPLE.

Things would only get more troubling for the TV star in July, with the News also reporting she was barred from taking the baby to job sites where lead and other toxins are present. In August, the judge warned her that she could face jail time for not paying expenses incurred for missed parenting times and attorney fees. (She had reportedly taken the baby to New York City with her in August during one of Maguire’s scheduled visitations).

Although the custody documents are still being finalized, Curtis told PEOPLE she hopes to come to a resolution soon. “If there’s one goal that’s out there for me it’s that time will heal some wounds here and I can have that relationship going forward for the baby.”