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The End of the Rutherford Custody Battle

It seems like the end has been reached in Kelly Rutherford’s custody battle. Last week a judge ruled that the Gossip Girl actress would not receive custody of the two children she shares with ex-husband Daniel Giersch. She has also been further barred from bringing them to the United States.

The End of the Rutherford Custody Battle

The Rutherford-Giersch battle has long been a subject of tabloid fodder.

In December 2008, when Rutherford was only three months pregnant with Helena, she initiated the divorce proceedings, citing “irreconcilable differences.” As she has said in an interview with Vanity Fair, “I didn’t want any money from Daniel. I wanted us both to be great parents. I wasn’t asking for full custody.”

Instead the actress sought 50-50 legal custody, with her as the primary residential parent. But Giersch did not agree with that decision. Instead he sued for Giersch went further. He sued for sole legal and physical custody of Hermes and of the not-yet-born infant daughter, Helena.


In 2012, a judge decided Kelly Rutherford and Daniel Giersch share joint custody of their two children. The kids would live in Monaco and France with their father because his visa had been revoked. But now, three years later, it seems the custody battle is over, at least for now.

As a result of the latest hearing, full custody of Hermes, 9, and Helena, 6, has been granted to Rutherford’s ex-husband Daniel Giersch. And according to People magazine, Rutherford will only be able to visit her children if she goes to Monaco or France.

When asked how she feels about the judge’s decision, she answered, “I think like any parent would feel.”

Expected Ruling

But according to experts, the latest ruling was to be expected.

Last August, a Los Angeles court said it no longer had jurisdiction over the custody dispute. Then, New York courts declined jurisdiction.

In response and furstration Rutherford, who founded the Children’s Justice Campaign to help families with similar across-nation legal issues, refused to send her children back to Giersch after spending the summer in New York with their mother. She contended that, since California had dropped jurisdiction and New York had declined it, no American court would be able to force her to send her children back to her husband in Monaco.

“I have decided that I cannot lawfully send my children away from the United States to live in a foreign country,” she wrote in a statement. Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Ellen Frances Gesmer did not agree with the actress, and instead ordered her to return the children to their father. Judge Gesmer also said she did not “look kindly upon” Rutherford’s failure to comply with the previous court orders to return the children at the end of their summer vacation with her.

And according to legal experts, Rutherford’s failure to comply most likely lost this custody battle for her. Michael Stutman, head of the family family group at Mishcon de Reya New York believe’s “Kelly’s failure to deliver the children… likely bought them a one-way ticket to Monaco. Given Kelly’s initial failure to send the children back, showing up without them was probably the nail in her coffin.”

He went on to say that, “The actions of Ms. Rutherford leading up to this ruling make the decision to award custody to Mr. Giersch the furthest thing from a surprise.”

He added, “Any responsible lawyer would advise her to end this crusade for custody.”

Fighting for Custody

As Kelly Rutherford knows, the battle for custody of your children can be heartbreaking. If you are facing this kind of battle, you’ll want to know what types of custody are available, and what you will need to do to retain custody of your children.

There are different forms of child custody: legal custody, physical custody, sole custody, and joint custody.

Physical Custody

Physical custody means a parent has gained the legal right (typically through a court ruling) to have a child live with him or her. Usually if a parent has physical custody they also have sole custody of the child, which means the other parent has visitation rights.


Sole Custody

There are two forms of sole custody a parent can have: sole legal custody or sole physical custody. Courts seem to be moving away from awarding sole custody to one parent as more information is coming out about the importance of having both parents in a child’s life. In cases where a parent has been deemed unfit due to a history of neglect or abuse, a known dependency on drugs or alcohol, or a new parented that has been deemed unfit, a court will usually award sole physical custody to one parent.  It’s advised that unless a parent has demonstrated the above issues, that you do not seek sole custody, due to the importance of having both parents in a child’s life.

While the trend is to award joint custody, in cases where courts do award sole physical custody the parents still usually share joint legal custody (which means both parents are able to make legal decisions regarding the child), unless a parents has been deemed unfit to make those legal decisions.

Legal Custody

Legal custody allows a parent to make decisions regarding various aspects of a child’s life, including: education, religion, and medical care or legal issues.

Joint Custody

Joint custody is abel to be awarded to the parents if they are divorced, separated, no longer living together, or if they never lived together but still shared a child. The awarding of joint custody to both parents means each parent is able to make decisions regarding the child. Joint custody also comes in various forms, including: joint legal custody, joint physical custody, or joint legal and physical custody. Usually if a couple shares joint physical custody they also share joint legal custody. But if a couple shares joint legal custody they do not always also share joint physical custody.

Learning How to Co-Parent

One of the hardest things that Kelly Rutherford and Daniel Giersch will need to eventually develop is a co-parenting relationship. This will be especially hard since they live on separate ends of the world, and even more difficult because of their already strained relationship.

“The biggest obstacles to successful co-parenting are emotions,” says Alisa Peskin-Shepherd, principal of Transitions Legal, a family law practice that specializes in mediative divorce. “Emotional obstacles are usually anger, resentment and jealousy. Often parents have a hard time separating those feelings toward their former spouse from their attempt to focus on their children.”

The idea of focusing on your children might seem obvious, but that can be really difficult when you receive that text from your ex that makes you want to throw your phone directly into their face. There are some tips that can help though! Here are some tips from parents who have actually found the magic combination to a successful (meaning they don’t completely resent each other) co-parenting situation.

Do YOU Need a  ‘Timeout’?

If you are not able to give yourself a timeout, and find that you are still stewing about conversing with your ex, consult a “co-parenting coordinator,” attorney or counselor – with or without your ex-spouse. This objective third party can be a great sounding board for ironing out your co-parenting relationship.

“Our expectations that two people who didn’t get along when they are married will suddenly be able to co-parent without some help is not reasonable,” Peskin-Shepherd says.

According to Alison Willet, a Birmingham resident and psychologist who has worked with high-conflict divorce, it is crucial for ex-spouses to heal fully from the pain that stems from their divorce if they plan to find a way to co-parent effectively.”

Play to Your Ex’s Strengths (This Might Be Very Difficult)

By now you know what your ex is good and and what they’re not so good at. So play fair when it comes to your kids and your ex’s abilities.

“You probably know your ex-spouse better than anyone else,” says Chris Tucker, father of Finn, 9, and Simon, 7, and step-dad to Lucas, 6. “Play to those strengths – not in a manipulative way, but in a spirit of making the best use of one another’s talents.”

Cooperation Is Key

This can be the hardest part of a co-parenting relationship – cooperating.

According to mother Shaindle Braunstein-Cohen, “Effective co-parenting does not require friendship, but it does require cooperation.”

Get it in Writing

Peskin-Shepherd advises parents to put everything in writing. That means that all plans and agreements should be kindly communicated to the other parent. This should be part of your working situation. If it’s in writing, it is harder for one person to argue about the agreed arrangement. This should be done for even the smallest things if you know that there is potential for arguments later down the road. This is especially necessary for vacation time and scheduling, agreements regarding financial decisions, and paying for child’s needs. A majority of these things will be part of your child custody agreement, but anything that comes up out side of that should also be agreed to in writing.

Set High Intentions

Keely Henry dealt with an ugly divorce. She did not want it to affect her son, Sullivan, 8. “I knew I could not let this ugly experience lead our lives,” she says. “I was going to have to communicate with my ex over the course of our son’s life. The only thing to do was set the ideal on a higher notion, above emotional distress.”

Because of that, Henry and her ex decided to celebrate holidays and birthdays with Sully together, which means including Henry’s new life partner and her ex’s partner, the woman that her husband left her for. “We all collaborate on my son’s parenting, with his dad and I as the final sayers,” she says. “It really is simple. Set the goal for the higher, not the lower.”

Let Go of Wanting Control

Even thirteen years after their divorce, Jodi Rubin and her ex-husband disagree about the same things they did not agree about when they were married. But they’ve been able to reach a place of mutual respect that allows them to co-parent their three children, Jordan, 19, Paige, 15, and Ethan, 13.

“It’s not about you,” says Rubin. “Instead of worrying about each other, worry about the kids. It’s a parent’s job to turn their children into productive and emotionally healthy adults, and you can’t do that if you’re focused on each other.”

Silence your Support System

Your friends and family will want to defend you, but there’s nothing helpful about your mother sending your ex a nasty email. The support system should remain impartial, and if they’re not, you need to intervene.

Keep Your Ego in Check

It goes without saying that you’re going to doubt your parenting ability and fear that your children will want to be with the other parent. But you have to resist the urge.

“It’s easy to see your ex-spouse as a threat,” says Tucker. “Remind yourself that your ex is also your children’s parent and would also step in front of a bus for them. Trust that they also have your children’s best interests at heart.”

Working with a Child Custody Attorney

If you are facing a child custody dispute, you should contact a child custody attorney. Because there are a lot of rules surrounding child custody and there are a lot of aspects that factor into child custody decisions, working with a child custody attorney can help you through the process.

Divorce Law LA, Esq.

Divorce Law LA

33 S. Catalina Ave. Ste. 202

Pasadena, Ca. 91106

(626) 478-3550


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Rutherford – Giersch Custody Battle

In 2012, a judge decided Kelly Rutherford and Daniel Giersch share joint custody of their two children. The kids would live in Monaco and France with their father because his visa had been revoked. But now, three years later, it seems the custody battle is far from over.

Son Hermes, 8, and daughter Helena, almost 6, have been ordered to return to the U.S. from Monaco for a court hearing on June 15. Rutherford, 46, has been granted sole legal and physical custody so that she can fly them back from Monaco for the hearing.

Too Soon to Tell


Prior to this new order, Rutherford had said that Giersch had denied allowing her to see the children during a visit last week. While this new order means her kids will come home to her, it’s too early to say if this means that they will be staying with her in California.

“It’s a temporary decision, and the June court date is going to be an incredibly important date to see how it pans out,” says Nancy Chemtob, a family and divorce lawyer who is not involved in the case. Dan Abrams, an ABC legal analyst and founder of Mediaite has followed the case for years. Weighing in on the new developments he said, “Even though its temporary, it seems to demonstrate that the court is upset that its specific orders have either been ignored or dismissed by Daniel.”

Violations of Judgment

It seems that Giersch “is alleged to have committed numerous violations” of the 2012 judgment. Rutherford’s application for full custody are based on allegations that she was not allowed to spend time with the children when she attempted to visit or bring them back to America for visits. He also allegedly has not reapplied for a U.S. visa. It’s also rumored that a former lawyer from Rutherford’s team was responsible for the revocation after she reported Giersch’s allegedly illegal activities to the State Department. She is denying any involvement.

“She filed a motion saying there’s been a substantial change of circumstances, he’s not complying with the terms of the agreement, he’s making false accusations or obstacles as to why she shouldn’t see the children, so now the judge ruled, ‘Okay, fine, the children are awarded back because there has been a change in circumstances,’ ” said Chemtob, weighing in on the case. “The judge said, ‘You need to return the children to the court and be here on this date.’ Now, on that date, the other side is going to come I’m sure with evidence refuting everything she said.”

Hermes and Helena, both U.S. citizens, will need to be back in the U.S. by June 15 for the court hearing.  The California court has asserted jurisdiction over the two children. Monaco also is a signatory to the Hague Convention. This agreement between more than 90 nations protects the interests of children and complies with other countries’ legal proceedings.

According to Chemtob, any attempts made by Giersch to keep the kids with him in Monaco “would be a violation of the court order and the breach of it is hugely severe. The punishment of him not coming back or not complying with the court order in itself could be a reason to transfer custody to her.”

In regards to the new court hearing, Abrams feels the current parenting arrangement could be altered completely.

“The court will hear both sides as they battle over whether it is in the best of the children to stay in France with Daniel or come back home to the United States to live with Kelly,” he says. “The court will also re-evaluate all aspects of visitation, etc.”

Chemtob feels: “There could be a modification, the children could be returned to the United States. A lot of times in relocation cases, they may go to school in the U.S. and spend their summers there. They could modify the access schedule to do what’s more appropriate for children of that age.” She goes on to say that while it’s unlikely a judge will make a final custody decision at this most recent hearing, the couple will most likely receive a briefing schedule, motions and eventually another trial.

“It’s an issue of fact and law. So the facts are: Did he violate, is he alienating, is she a good mother to take care of the kids on a regular basis in the U.S., are her parental rights going to be sorted if they continue to reside there?” Chemtob explains. “All those are issues of fact, and then the issue of law is something else.

“Usually, there will be a trial. That’s how you determine the issues of fact – who’s telling the truth.”

In cases like this it is not unheard of that the children be asked where and with whom they would like to live with. Both Chemtob and Abrams feel this is likely in this case.

“There could be forensic psychiatrists appointed, and I think one of the most telling things in this case is what the children are going to be saying, what they want to do, because of their ages going to be considered,” explains Chemtob. “They’re obviously much more verbal than they were last time this all happened.”

“The children may be interviewed, and a lawyer called a guardian ad litem might even be appointed again to represent their interests,” Abrams says. “The last representative for the children recommended that they stay with Kelly in the United States, but the California court in 2012 decided to reject that recommendation.”

Options for Giersch

Had Rutherford not been granted temporary full custody, there is a chance Giersch could have stopped Hermes and Helena from boarding the plane. According to Chemtob, the purpose of giving Rutherford temporary custody was to ensure the children were returned to the United States. Joint custody would have enabled Giersch to prevent the children from returning to California for the hearing.


As a result of the order, Giersch is now legally unable to stop the kids from traveling to Los Angeles. He or a representative must be present during the court hearing. While Chemtob feels Giersch could go to an appellate court in Monaco or the U.S. to ask for a stay, Abrams feels he would not be successful doing so.

“He can certainly appeal in California, but I think it unlikely any California court will change the order before the June 15 hearing,” Abrams says. “The interesting question is what happens if a Monaco court and Daniel refuse to adhere to the California court order. Then, you have American citizen children being kept in a foreign country in direct violation of a United States court’s order.

“I am confident that if that were to happen that State Department would get involved on Kelly’s behalf and that the California court would be even more likely to grant her permanent physical custody.”

Chemtob would “100 percent” recommend Giersch comply with the California court order. She would advise him to present his side of the story in front of the judge.

“I can’t imagine any lawyer would say otherwise, unless he had a real basis to appeal,” says Chemtob. “If he really had a real basis to appeal that they misapplied the law, then i would say, ‘Okay … let’s just comply. If you think you have a strong case, then you should win when you get here.’ “

When it comes to Giersch’s chances, Chemtob believes, “there’s a 50/50 chance, I don’t even think it’s 60/40, that when the kids come back, the court in California could hear evidence that would send the kids back to Monaco again.”

Preparations for Rutherford

Chemtob suggests that Rutherford and her team present how Rutherford will care for Hermes and Helena if she is granted permanent sole custody. This also means demonstrating how she will continue to encourage the relationship they have with their dad. According to Chemtob, the key is to paint a very clear picture that outlines what the children’s lives will be like if they return to America.

“Where are the kids going to go to school? Who’s going to watch them? Are you working, who’s going to watch the children while you’re working? What’s the support system, how are you supporting the children?” says Chemtob. “How are you going to let the children see their father, how are you going to foster the relationship between the children and their father – are you going to FaceTime, are you going to let them email, are you going to let them go for long weekends? How are you going to break up a winter schedule like Christmas break?”

She continues, “When my clients come in and they have a plan that really takes into consideration how the other parent’s going to be able to see the children, that’s what the judges respect.”

Additionally, Rutherford declared bankruptcy in 2013 as the result of mounting legal fees and travel costs to visit her children in Monaco. A fact that Chemtob feels should not be a disadvantage.

“Being able to support the children is one of the factors to consider, but someone shouldn’t be penalized because they have less money than the other spouse,” Chemtob says. “So it would be a factor that’s considered, but it wouldn’t be looked poorly on her that she had to file for bankruptcy.”

Abrams is confident Rutherford will prevail.

“Based on Daniel’s conduct, in particular his seeming disregard for the California court’s orders, I would expect the court to have the children come back to the United States, where Daniel can then finally apply for a U.S. visa again as he has long been required to do,” he says.

Move Away Court Orders


If you are facing a case such as this one, the first thing you need to identify is if you are able to move away and relocate your child. Most courts will not allow a parent to relocate the child unless he or she has received written consent from the other parent or a court.

During a question of relocating a child the court takes the “best interest of the child” into account, considering these factors:

  • Is the current child custody arrangement stable?
  • Where is the new location? How far away is it from the household of the remaining parent?
  • What will be the financial impact (for both parents)?
  • Age of the child
  • What is the current relationship between the parents and the child?
  • Are the parents able to co-parent?
  • What are the child’s wishes (this is often dependent on the child’s age)?
  • Does the child require special accommodations? If so, are these accommodations available in the new location?
  • Reason for the move
  • Any additional factors

Modification of Court Orders

A move away request is considered a modification of court orders. If you are looking to modify original orders you need to be mindful of the current custody and visitation rights you have.  Consider working with a family law attorney to ensure your move away is done legally and you don’t risk jeopardizing your current agreement.

Divorce Law LA, Esq.

Divorce Law LA

33 S. Catalina Ave. Ste. 202

Pasadena, Ca. 91106

(626) 478-3550

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Miller Custody Battle

An agreement has finally been reached in the custody battle between Olympic skier Bode Miller, 37, and his ex-girlfriend.

Custody Battle

Five-time world champion Miller and ex-girlfriend, Sara McKenna, 28, a student at Columbia University, have been stuck in a bitter custody battle over their 18-month-old son, Samuel. The two have struck a deal just on the eve of a trial where each were expected to bring witnesses to testify to the psychological impact of the the temporary joint custody arrangement was having on Samuel. The two were also in disagreement regarding the amount of child support McKenna had requested.

Previous Custody Ruling

McKenna is a retired Marine who is attending Columbia on the GI Bill. She gave birth to Samuel during her first semester at Columbia in New York. Prior to the baby even being born, Miller was awarded custody of him in California court. Initially, a New York family court judge supported the California ruling and thus, ordered McKenna to surrender Samuel to Miller. A judge in the Appellate Division in Manhattan overturned that decision, ruling that a custody decision needed to be made in New York (not California) because the baby had been born in New York. As a result, McKenna and the Samuel were reunited. Over the past year McKenna and Miller (along with his new wife, volleyball player Morgan Beck) have shared custody, splitting time between California and New York.

McKenna and Miller

McKenna and Miller had a brief fling while McKenna was in California and McKenna got pregnant. Allegedly, when she got pregnant, Miller did not want to take part in Samuel’s life. Thus, McKenna enrolled in the veterans program at Columbia. She had already accepted the scholarship to Columbia and made plans to move to New York when Miller filed for custody in California.


For advice on child custody and paternity, you need the expert law firm of Divorce Law LA. Schedule a consultation today.

Source: Daily News, Bode Miller settles custody fight for son with ex Sara McKenna, November 17, 2014

Divorce Law LA, Esq.

Divorce Law LA

33 S. Catalina Ave. Ste. 202

Pasadena, Ca. 91106

(626) 478-3550