A Look Back At Gossip Girl Alum Kelly Rutherford's Messy Custody Battle

There are many things about "Gossip Girl" that you only notice as an adult, including the questionable decisions of its NYC parents. However, while Lily van der Woodsen was getting her daughter Serena arrested on the Upper East Side, her real-life counterpart Kelly Rutherford was facing a grueling custody battle for her two young children.

The years-spanning, international-reaching ordeal began in December 2008 when Rutherford and her then-husband Daniel Giersch each filed for divorce, notably both seeking sole physical custody of their son, Hermes. The "Gossip Girl" star first married the German businessman in August 2006, with the couple welcoming their first child in October of the same year. At the time of their separation, Rutherford was also pregnant with their second child, Helena.

Their marriage might've been short, but it resulted in one of the messiest celebrity custody battles to date, consisting of everything from private investigators and restraining orders to revoked visas and alleged child abductions. "I just wanted what was right for [the kids] and their well-being moving forward," the Kentucky native told People. "And what happened over the next six years was the most surreal, bizarre, unimaginable thing."

The couple's custody battle quickly escalated

Kelly Rutherford and Daniel Giersch's custody negotiation quickly descended into a tense battle in the aftermath of their separation. Before the birth of their daughter Helena, the CW actor filed a motion to bar Giersch from leaving the U.S., explaining that she feared her ex-husband would abscond with their son without notice. She cited incidents from their marriage as the reasoning, alleging that her former partner's bad temper would cause him to abruptly leave without explanation.

Meanwhile, Giersch took issue with Rutherford's New York City living situation, citing her professional obligations to "Gossip Girl" as an impediment to her parenting ability. "The filming lifestyle in New York is very hectic and stressful from what I have personally witnessed," read a court filing from January 2009 obtained by People. "Usually [her] stress causes Hermes to start crying, which then causes [her] to be frustrated toward him. I do not believe this is a healthy lifestyle for him."

One of the most controversial moves made by Rutherford in the early days of her custody battle centers around the birth of her daughter Helena in July 2009. Not only did she reportedly neglect to inform Giersch of the birth of their child, but she also didn't list him as the father on Helena's birth certificate. This fact would significantly damage Rutherford's fight for full custody in the future.

Rutherford lost full custody of her children

Following the birth of their daughter, things between Kelly Rutherford and Daniel Giersch continued to escalate, with "The Perfectionists" actor filing for a temporary restraining order against her ex and hiring a private investigator in 2009. However, Giersch's loss of his U.S. work visa in 2012 was a pivotal moment in the former couple's custody battle. The revocation was seemingly prompted by a controversial court move by a lawyer under Rutherford's then-legal representative.

Accordingly, Matthew Rich had been in conversation with the U.S. State Department before deposing Giersch about the details of his business ventures, calling into question the legality of his presence in the States. While Rutherford maintains that she had no hand in this disruptive incident, both Giersch and the media accused the "Gossip Girl" star of intentionally sabotaging her ex-husband's visa when it was revoked in the following months. Either way, the move would prove to be a fatal blow to Rutherford's fight for custody.

In 2012, Judge Theresa Beaudet ruled that because Giersch was unable to reenter the U.S., Helena and Hermes would live with their father in Monaco while he worked on the issues with his visa. "The best interests of the children will be served because the relocation plan for France is the only plan that offers the possibility of nearly equal parenting time while Giersch cannot return to the U.S.," the ruling read (via The Hollywood Reporter).

The custody battle came to a close in 2015

Kelly Rutherford has made many attempts to appeal and even overturn the 2012 court ruling that relocated her children to Europe, going so far as to controversially refuse them passage back to Monaco after a summer visit to the U.S. in 2015. The inflammatory move, aimed at keeping Helena and Hermes in the States, eventually led to a Monaco court awarding full custody to Daniel Giersch in December 2015.

After facing everything from jurisdictional issues to financial bankruptcy, Rutherford seems to have accepted the decision as the end of the long-running custody battle. Since then, the actor has continued to travel to Europe and keep in long-distance contact with Hermes and Helena. "They're just growing so fast," the actor told People in 2019. "They're just becoming their own people like, you know, all of us. It's beautiful to see, and I love that they share it with me. They're really open with me. We're just really bonding, which is nice."

The international implications and dramatic spectacle of Kelly Rutherford's custody battle have garnered much media attention over the years. Even though the "Gossip Girl" alum didn't get the final decision that she wanted, we're glad that both she and her children are seemingly making the most of their ocean-separating situation.