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April 09, 2015 01:10 PM

It was the last resort.

That’s how a source describes Mischa Barton‘s decision to sue her manager mother, Nuala Barton, for allegedly stealing money from her to buy a $7.8 million Beverly Hills home – and then locking her out of it.

It wasn’t a decision that came easy.

“She is heartbroken by this, and she didn’t want to do it. She hates the attention, but she didn’t have a choice,” the source tells PEOPLE.

The former O.C. actress, 29, has cautiously defended her mother over the years. At the same time, tension between the two has been mounting.

“When she said to her mom, ‘I’m going to have to sue you for the rights to what I own,’ her mom said, ‘Fine, get out of the house. You will never sue us,’ ” the source says. “This was two years ago. And [Mischa] got the point where she said, ‘I don’t care.’ ”

“Her relationship with her mother has been strained for years,” the source says. “And Mischa has reached a point in her life where she is able to finally to take full control of her career and the financial freedom she deserves.”

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