Cause Celeb: Kelly Rutherford shares tale of international custody battle on the Hill
Celeb: Actress Kelly Rutherford might be best known for her role on CW’s “Gossip Girl,” playing the chic matriarch of an Upper East Side clan prone to affairs, faked deaths and other scandalous dealings. But in recent years, she’s been engulfed in her own real-life drama — a high-profile, multi-jurisdictional battle with her German ex-husband for the custody of their two children.
Cause: The rights of parents whose children have been taken from them through international parental abduction. During her seven-year struggle to win custody and visitation of her children, who are currently living in Monaco with her ex, Rutherford founded the Children’s Justice Campaign to help families facing similar challenges.]
Scene: A panel discussion attended by lawmakers, lots of young Hill staffers and activists in a high-ceiling room in the House Cannon Office Building. Rutherford, looking Audrey Hepburn-esque in ballet flats, slim black pants and a white button-down, gave a seemingly unscripted account of her travails through the court systems in California and in Europe, confessing how the legal bills bankrupted her and forced her to sell all her possessions, “including the sofa under my tushy,” she said.
Reps. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) congratulated her on a recent victory in the Monaco courts, which ordered that her children could visit her for the summer. “Though we all know it’s a temporary win,” Lieu cautioned, and both called for legislative fixes.
Soundbite: Rutherford jokingly suggested that by sharing her harrowing tale, she might prevent the pattern from repeating. “I see a lot of young women here today who will probably never marry a foreigner after hearing these stories,” she laughed. “They’re cute. The accents are amazing — but they’re expensive accents.”
On a more serious note: “I fell in love with someone, and I wanted kids. Had I known that this was even possible in my own country, as a mother … it just never occurred to me that this could happen. But it is happening and it is happening every day … to people who have nowhere to go.”