September 3rd, 2012 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
Have we come to this? Is it possible that in these United States a mother can’t falsely accuse a father and get custody? I know that even asking the question shocks you, and for that I apologize. I know that you recoiled in horror and disbelief at the very concept that a judge might not credit a mother’s story regardless of how outlandish.
But the astonishing truth is that, in the case of TV star Kelly Rutherford, that’s exactly what happened. Here’s one story (ABC News, 9/1/12).
Rutherford and her ex, German businessman Daniel Giersch, have been in a custody battle for three years over their two children who are three and five years old. In fact, Rutherford filed for divorce in 20o9 while she was still pregnant with their younger child. Sure enough, she soon embarked on a pattern of allegations against Giersch designed to cut him out of the children’s lives. That’s according to the sources in this article (Daily Mail, 8/30/12).
But the Los Angeles Superior Court judge seems to have remained unmoved by her claims, allowing Giersch to take the children to his home in France this past summer. So Rutherford upped the ante, and that turns out to have been a mistake. According to this article, she told the judge that Giersch deals drugs and arms in South Africa, a claim which if true, under the Victory Act, constitutes terrorism (Opposing Views, 8/29/12). That means his visa to travel to the United States is automatically revoked until such time as he can convince authorities of his innocence. So Giersch is stuck in France and the California judge, apparently having had enough of Rutherford’s shenanigans, ruled last Tuesday that the kids are to remain with their father.
Now, he doesn’t have sole custody. No, the current custody arrangement is strictly 50-50 parenting time between the two, so the time they’re spending with Giersch while he fights Rutherford’s latest claims will be equalized later.
Apart from the high-profile nature of the combatants, there’s nothing too remarkable about this case. It’s possible to see it as just another garden-variety custody battle in which Mom seeks leverage by falsely accusing Dad. It happens every day, countless times a day. But most custody cases don’t get the media coverage Giersch/Rutherford does, and, not surprisingly, that coverage itself has become part of the story.
Google “Kelly Rutherford divorce” or some such term and you’ll get a barrage of articles from all sorts of sources all of which run to a type. The consistent theme of the story, now that the judge has ordered the children kept with Giersch in France, is that Rutherford is “devastated” at the “loss” of her children. Well, isn’t that special. After all, what the judge ordered would make any normal father fall to his knees and give thanks to divine providence. Equal custody is as rare as hen’s teeth, and any father would be grateful to receive it, but for mother Rutherford it’s a mortal blow.
And of course, as far as I can tell, not a single article questions her narrative that equal custody with Giersch in some way constitutes an unjust deprivation of what’s rightfully hers, i.e. sole custody. Maybe the various articles and interviews don’t confront that patently false and strange narrative because the various reporters didn’t get around to asking Giersch. In fact, every single piece on the case quotes Rutherford at length and in detail but none manage to look at all skeptically at her claims.
If the court were even-handed at all, Giersch would have almost primary custody and Rutherford would have supervised visitation only. That’s mostly because of her campaign to cut the children’s father out of their lives. That behavior has a name – parental alienation – and any court that’s doing its job should make clear that no parent at any time can engage in it. Courts should require parents to cooperate in raising the kids, and that of course means refraining from making up things about the other parent. My guess is that the court is doing just that in Rutherford’s case; it’s just that, in family courts today, mere 50% custody is seen as punishment for the mother. That’s certainly how Rutherford sees it and her “amen corner” that other people call the media is happy to agree.
My guess is that Rutherford’s claim that Giersch runs drugs and guns in South Africa will turn out to be yet another lie whose aim is to gain an advantage in a custody proceeding. If so, what’ll happen then? Of course, Giersch will get his visa back, but to my way of thinking, claiming someone’s an international terrorist is a bit of step up from mothers’ usual claims of having been placed “in fear” by some behavior of the dad. That means this case will be worth following. Will the full import of Rutherford’s behavior sink in on the Superior Court judge? How will that effect the final custody decision? Will Giersch sue Rutherford for libel/slander/defamation?
We’ll see, but for now, it looks like business as usual.