Kelly Rutherford’s 6-year International Custody Battle

Kelly Rutherford’s heart wrenching custody battle over her two children, aged 6 and 9 years old, made headlines again last month as a Judge in Monaco ruled that the children were to stay there with their father and that Rutherford was no longer allowed to bring them to the United States. In case you are not familiar with the 6-year-long custody battle that has ensued, here is a brief overview of the key events leading up to this decision:

Rutherford and her ex-husband, Daniel Giersch, have been caught up in this custody battle since she was pregnant with her youngest child 6 years ago. The proceedings began in 2009 in Los Angeles. Later, trouble arose with Giersch’s US visa, and it was revoked, essentially leaving him unable to re-enter the US. At that point in 2012, the Los Angeles judge ordered residential custody to Giersch and he moved the children to his residence in Monaco. In June 2015, Monaco granted a request for Rutherford to fly the children to the U.S. for 5 weeks during their summer vacation. At that time, Rutherford was living and working in New York, and in July 2015 the California court relinquished jurisdiction over the case. New York then declined to extend jurisdiction.


When Rutherford was supposed to return the children to Monaco in August of 2015, she feared what would happen to them, as no U.S. court had claimed jurisdiction over them. So, she did what any scared mother would likely do in this situation and decided not to put her children back on that plane to Monaco. She was immediately faced with accusations of kidnapping and abducting the children, and days later a New York judge ordered the immediate return of the children to Monaco.

Fast forward from August to December, and the Monaco judge rules that Rutherford is no longer allowed to take the children out of Monaco. While she is still allowed visitation with the children, it must take place in Monaco. Rutherford has been devastated by the effects of this case on her and her children. Over 6 years of fighting in court with her ex-husband has left her bankrupt and defeated; now without her children.

Unfortunately child custody and visitation disputes are regular occurrences in divorce cases, and they are often the most difficult and emotional issues to resolve. Rutherford’s case involved an extremely unusual sequence of events that have led to an end result that is hard to swallow, but unfortunately the refusal to send the children back to Monaco in August 2015 seems to have been the final fatal nail in this case’s coffin.

California laws set out penalties for parents who withhold children from the other parent when there has been a court order for custody or visitation in place. The only acceptable reason for withholding a child is when the parent has a good faith belief that the child will suffer immediate bodily injury or emotional harm if they were to hand over the children to the other parent. Even then, correct procedures must be followed and steps taken to ensure that the parent does not face penalties for kidnapping or child abduction.

For more on international move-away cases, see our December 4, 2015 blog titled “Child Custody: International Move Away Requests.”

We understand that child custody issues are sensitive and can become even more difficult when parents live in different states, let alone different countries. The divorce attorneys at Bickford Blado & Botros have litigated multiple international move-aways with success. Whether you are considering filing for divorce or legal separation and anticipate that such issues will arise, or have questions on the topics discussed here or any other divorce-related issues, please contact us. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don’t settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.

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