Parental Alienation in Divorce: The Kelly Rutherford Divorce Saga

Kelly Rutherford, who portrays the glamorous matriarch Lily Van der Woodsen on the hit series “Gossip Girl,” has been hitting the morning talk show circuit to expose the supposed injustice of a recent order by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge, Teresa Beaudet, that in effect gave primary physical custody of Rutherford’s two young children to their father, German business man, Daniel Giersch.  Giersch resides in France in his mother’s boyfriend’s house.

I question Rutherford’s and her legal team’s strategy of doing this, as in my experience, judges generally do not like to be told they are wrong, and like even less to be mocked and called un-American in the press.  According to media outlets, this is not the final order in the case, and it is not unfathomable that Rutherford could find herself back in front of Beaudet with a lot of explaining to do.  Rutherford’s daytime TV appearances have done nothing to show the Court or the American public that she is attempting to foster a harmonious relationship with her ex for the benefit of their two children, five-year-old Hermes and three-year-old Helena.  Giersch and his attorney have wisely, in my opinion, declined to comment on the case.

Rutherford filed for divorce from Giersch in 2009, when she was two months pregnant with Helena.  A very ugly divorce and custody battle ensued, prompting Rutherford to refuse to put Giersch’s name on Helena’s birth certificate even after being ordered to do so several times by the Court, something that would eventually sound the death knell for her custodial rights.  In April 2012, Giersch’s visa was revoked, preventing him from returning to the United States.

Rutherford maintains that no explanation has ever been given, nor has the Court taken any interest in, why Giersch’s visa was revoked.  People Magazine and ABC News reported that Giersch’s visa was revoked because he was accused of “dealing drugs and weapons,” acts of terrorism under the Victory Act, while an affidavit presented in the custody case accuses him of fraud.  Giersch insists that his visa was revoked because of false allegations about his businesses reported to the State Department by Rutherford and her lawyers.

Since Giersch’s visa was revoked, and prior to the Court’s ruling, Rutherford had been traveling with the children from New York to Bermuda, Canada, and France to afford Giersch parenting time.  On August 28, 2012, Beaudet ruled that the children should attend school and reside full-time with Giersch in France.  The Judge stated in her ruling that “

[t]he 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 cannot return to the U.S.”

The Judge’s ruling allows Rutherford near equal time with the children; however, Rutherford has indicated to several media outlets that her work schedule does not permit her to fly to France often enough to take advantage of the allotted time.  Other aspects of the new parenting plan require Giersch to purchase six round trip, coach airline tickets per school year for Rutherford and put her up in a house with a car while she is in France.

Initial public reaction to the Judge’s ruling was uproarious with Rutherford’s camp stating “[r]ewarding someone who has been banished from this country and is prohibited from stepping foot in this country with custody of American citizen children makes no earthly sense to anyone with a basic understanding of the law.”  As the days passed and the dust settled, however, the Judge’s rationale became clearer.  Celebrity gossip website TMZ obtained a copy of the Judge’s ruling, in which the Judge makes no bones about being concerned about parental alienation.  The judge writes “Daniel has facilitated the relationship of the children with Kelly . . . and Kelly simply has not done so,” citing as an example Rutherford’s failure to put Giersch’s name on Helena’s birth certificate despite being ordered to do so by the Court.  The judge went on to state that “[e]ven while under the scrutiny of an extended trial Kelly still has declined to demonstrate the level of commitment to facilitating the relationship that would be required of a residential parent in a relocation situation.”

The takeaway from all of this is that judges are extremely concerned with parental alienation and will not hesitate to remove custody from a parent who they believe is attempting to thwart the children’s relationship with the other parent.  Judges in every state are charged with doing what is in the best interest of children, and generally it is in the best interest of a child to have a healthy, loving relationship with both parents.  In my opinion, Rutherford’s media blitz, which in this internet age her children will no doubt someday have access to, has done nothing to help her case or show the Court that she is not attempting to alienate her children from their father.

You can read the findings and order after hearing here.