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What parents can learn from Kelly Rutherford's custody battle

Since 2012, Gossip Girl actress, Kelly Rutherford continues to captivate imaginations with her spectacularly dramatic legal battles. She lost a six year international custody war with her German husband. She subsequently filed for bankruptcy which she was granted this year.

It apparently started with a California judgment sending her two small children to Monaco to be with their father whose visa had been revoked. The court ruling adhered to the standard in California for child custody cases, ruling for 'the best interest of the children.'

It might seem strange that a court ruling in the best interest of the children could wreak so much havoc in a person's life. Let's take a look at this standard to see what it means.

What factors does California look at when determining the 'best interest of the child?'

  • The age of the child
  • The health of the child
  • The emotional ties between the parents and the child
  • The ability of the parents to care for the child
  • Any history of family violence or substance abuse
  • The child's ties to school, home, and his or her community

Here are some examples of how this standard is applied in custody cases:

  • When parents are seeking legal or physical custody of their children, the court will look to this standard to see what is best for the child.
  • They will also look at it to determine visitation or parenting time. They can look to see what kind of schedule is best, what is reasonable, and if there needs to be supervision.
  • It is also used to modify previous custody agreements if they need to be renegotiated. For example, if one parent's travel schedule becomes incompatible with the current agreement, it may be used to create a better plan for the children.

What happened to Kelly Rutherford?

The actress did not have sole physical custody of her children. What she had in place was a temporary joint physical custody of her children with her ex-husband. This meant that the parents were meant to co-parent, splitting the physical upbringing of the children. When the co-parent could not be physically present to access his parenting rights, the court sent the children to where he was. It just happened to have been across the globe.

The actress later lost custody after she famously did not follow the court order to return her children to their father in Europe after a visit, which created further issues. What happened to Kelly Rutherford was tragic. It does, however, serves as a reminder to parents to seek the best possible legal counsel when fighting for their children's best interest in custody battles.

It also sadly serves as a warning for parents who are tempted to ignore court orders. If you or your loved one has a custody agreement that is no longer working for them, don't hesitate to consult a lawyer on your particular legal issue before acting.

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