Children Always Lose When Custody Battles Become Vicious

by Ashley Austrew

Actress Kelly Rutherford’s six-year custody battle came to an end yesterday, and things didn’t work out like she hoped. Rutherford officially lost custody of her two kids, six-year-old Helena and nine-year-old Hermes, and will no longer be able to bring them into the United States.

Rutherford divorced her husband, German businessman Daniel Giersch, in 2009 when she was still pregnant with their second child. Since then, the pair have been embroiled in a messy fight for rights to their kids, made all the more complicated by the fact that Giersch lives overseas. He lost his business visa and was barred from entering the U.S. in 2012 after Rutherford accused him of stalking and threatening her. The State Department never confirmed or denied that her accusations had anything to do with their decision.

In 2012, a judge granted full custody to Giersch, stating that Rutherford was not forthcoming about her work schedule and “failed to demonstrate the level of commitment to facilitating the relationship with their father” that would make joint custody work. That summer, Rutherford was granted custody of her kids for two months so they could stay with her in New York. She argued that the court had no right to force them to return to France after those two months and decided to just keep them.

They were sent back to France a month later, and it’s been a mess of court battles ever since. With this latest ruling, the kids will remain with their father full time and Rutherford is only permitted to visit them in Monaco or France. An attorney who spoke with People said Rutherford deserved this outcome and shouldn’t be at all surprised by the decision.

“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 … Ms. Rutherford essentially had her head handed to her because she tried to take the law into her own hands.”

While that may be true in the eyes of the law, it’s heartbreaking when you consider the impact all of this has had on Rutherford’s kids. In a 2013 interview with People, Rutherford said her kids got “panicky” about going back to their father. She added, “My daughter was crying, my son started saying, ‘Mommy, I’m afraid.’ If I put them on a plane, I realized I may never see them again.” She also said her kids ask her repeatedly if she’s “still fighting” for them.

Helena and hermes have had very little stability throughout this custody battle, being carted back and forth across the Atlantic and used as leverage in a battle that’s in no way theirs. They’ve been forced to choose between their parents for most of their lives, and regardless of the court ruling, they always end up missing out on a chance to have equal time with both of their parents. That’s the cruel reality of vicious custody battles: the kids lose no matter what.

Rutherford obviously loves her children wants to be with them, but the hurtful cycle they’ve been in for the past six years had to end at some point. According to Psychology Today, it’s ritual and routine that most helps kids cope with divorce, and Rutherford’s children have had remarkably little of that. As sad as this ruling may be for Rutherford, it’s probably time both she and Giersch focus on the quality of their time with their kids, rather than quantity.

H/T Jezebel