International Custody Dispute: Kelly Rutherford’s Custody Battle

Since 2009 the media has been reporting on actress, Kelly Rutherford’s, custody battle. It was six years ago that Los Angeles Judge, Teresa Beaudet, ordered Rutherford’s two young children, Hermes (age 8) and Helena (age 6) to go live with their father, Daniel Giersch, in France. Prior to this order, the parties had allegedly settled on a temporary joint custody agreement. However, reports indicate that Giersch subsequently had his visa revoked preventing him from exercising visitation with the children in the US. Subsequently, after Giersch was rendered unable to visit the children, Rutherford petitioned for sole custody. In an unpredicted move, the Judge made the decision to order the children to live with Giersch in France. It was determined that while Rutherford had the ability to visit the children internationally, Giersch did not. Rutherford again petitioned for a change in the custody orders, except this time the Court determined that it did not have jurisdiction over the matter as the children’s place of habitual residence was found to be Monaco. Unfortunately for Rutherford, the Los Angeles Court found that it could not preside over the matter and that instead, the actress would have to fight her custody battle in Monaco.

In every agreement regarding custody and visitation it is vital to include language stating why the Court you are seeking orders from has jurisdiction over the matter pursuant to Family Code Section 2048. Specifically, any filed agreements should ready that the children’s habitual country of residence is the United States. This is important for the very reasons as shown in Rutherford’s custody battle. The failure to include the important jurisdictional language, where the children have resided outside of the United States for more than six months, has resulted in the Courts no longer having the ability to make any decisions on her case. The lesson is an important one, always make sure that your pleadings are complete and detailed with all the correct statutory and jurisdictional language.

Another important lesson from Rutherford’s case is the impact of one’s actions when it comes to following Court orders. It is always important to keep in mind that the Courts are always focused on the best interests of the children, including allowing access to both parents absent any safety concerns. It goes without saying that a child’s best interest never involves parents trying to alienate them from the other parent. To that end attorneys should always advise and encourage their clients comply with Court orders and effectively co-parent in a way that will cause the children to feel supported and safe.

Here at Mello & Pickering we can help you in your custody and visitation case. Our attention to detail and extensive knowledge of family law will ensure that no mistakes are made in your case. With our combined 28 years of experience, we can help ensure that your best interests and those of your children are protected.