International custody disputes

For most people, the dissolution of a marriage is often met with sadness, confusion and frustration. For divorcing parents, these feelings are often magnified as questions and concerns mount over child custody issues.

Most attorneys advise divorcing parents to work together to come to an agreement about child custody issues. In some cases, however, parents aren’t able to do so and custody matters and decisions must be waged and decided in court.

Every child custody dispute is complex and forces the courts to consider and weigh numerous factors, however, those involving parents who are citizens of another country are especially difficult and legally complicated to resolve.

The international custody battle between U.S. actress Kelly Rutherford and her ex-husband, German businessman Daniel Giersch, highlights the many complications and problems that U.S. parents may face in these types of cases.

In Rutherford’s case, the couple wed in 2007 and later divorced in 2009. At the time of the divorce, the couple had a two-year-old son and Rutherford was three months pregnant with the couple’s daughter. For the last six years, the two parents have been locked in a bitter international custody battle that has grown increasingly contentious.

After the couple’s divorce, Giersch’s work visa was revoked and he was forced to leave the U.S. At that time, a judge ruled that, because Giersch could not travel to the U.S. to see his children, it was “in the children’s best interests,” to move to Monaco to live with their father. Rutherford was awarded visitation rights until Giersch reapplied for a U.S. visa.

Fast forward six years and the couple’s children, now ages eight and six, still reside with their father, who has yet to reapply for a U.S. visa and retains full physical custody, in Monaco. With regard to international child custody cases, this case is unprecedented as both of the children were born in the U.S. and are therefore U.S. citizens who their mother argues should be living with her in their country of origin.

In an attempt to regain custody of her children, Rutherford has waged a very public campaign even appealing to the White House to weigh in on the issue. For now, family courts in both California, where Rutherford previously lived, and New York, her new home state, have refused to handle the case due to jurisdictional issues. A custody hearing is scheduled for September in a Monaco court.

Source: MSNBC, “The nightmare that is Kelly Rutherford’s international custody battle,” Lisa Green, Aug. 18, 2015

People Magazine, “Inside Kelly Rutherford’s 6-Year Custody Battle: Why Her Kids Can’t Come Home,” Michele Corriston, April 16, 2015

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