Kelly Rutherford, the actress best known for “Gossip Girl” and TV movies, has been going through a fairly brutal custody battle with her ex-husband for the past several years. Unlike most celebrities, who try to keep the details of their divorce proceedings under wraps, Rutherford has been unusually public about the whole wrenching fight.
This week, a judge ruled that Rutherford’s young children, who are currently living in France with their father, will not be required to move back to the United States. Instead, Rutherford will need to continue to fly back and forth between the U.S. and France to see her 8-year-old son Hermes and 5-year-old daughter Helena.
“They will retain their United States citizenship and, once they reach the age of majority, they will be free to choose where they reside,” the federal court ruled, according to an ABC News report. Rutherford appeared in an emotional interview on “Good Morning America” on Tuesday to discuss the decision.
The backstory: Rutherford and her ex-husband, German businessman Daniel Giersch, split in 2009. Three years later, Giersch’s U.S. visa was revoked, and he moved to Monaco. Later that year, during the custody proceedings during their contentious divorce case, a judge ruled that the children should live in France with Giersch, given that he wasn’t allowed in the United States.
“The best interests of the children will be served because the relocation plan for France is the only plan that offers the possibility of nearly equal parenting time while Giersch can not return to the U.S.,” the judge stated. That’s according to a commentary piece by ABC legal analyst Dan Abrams, who proclaimed it “one of the worst custody decisions ever.”
About 18 months ago, Rutherford took her fight to Washington, where she appeared at a luncheon honoring the National Organization for Women and advocated for equal rights in family court. As we reported at the time, Rutherford argued that many efforts to protect fathers’ rights in custody cases often have the effect of shortchanging the mothers.
In her Washington appearance, Rutherford said she was bankrupted by the cost of legal fees and flying back and forth to see her kids in France. After going public about her court battle, other women would stop her on the street to tell her that they feared leaving their own bad marriages after hearing her custody horror story, she said.
“I know this sounds absurd, like one of those over-the-top television movies I’ve actually acted in, but this is real life,” Rutherford said at the time. “This is my life.”
But even while Rutherford’s celebrity status drew ample media attention to her case, the ruling did not come out in her favor. E! reports from a Rutherford “insider” that the actress “is focused and views this as a political issue. . . Kelly is now not only fighting for her own children’s rights, but the rights of all children who could end up in this situation.”
Giersch’s attorney responded to this week’s ABC News story with a statement: “Daniel Giersch continues to protect the children from any negativity and therefore will continue to not engage in any of these unfortunate and false media fabrications which only serve one person but clearly not the children.”