Celebrities to some people are these perfect people, almost not real, untouchable,
who live lavished lifestyles, have more money than they can spend, houses
big enough to fit 10 families, yachts, exotic vacations, etc. However,
when one of these idolized celebrities faces a Judge in a court custody
battle, the Judge does not see an A-lister, award-winning actress, multi-platinum
singer or Super Bowl ring on their finger. The Judge sees them and expects
them to be in one role only at that time: a parent. Just like the Judge
would see you, me or any of our clients facing a custody fight in court.
And whether you are a celebrity or not, violating a
child custody court order as a parent is just that: a violation. Period.
A custody case involving actress Kelly Rutherford is a perfect example
of the consequences a parent can face if they violate a court order. She
has been in a long and painful custody battle with her ex-husband, Daniel
Giersch, over their two children. Since Giersch was not a US citizen and
he was having issues with his visa for entry into the United States, the
Judge in a California court granted residential custody to the father.
In essence, the children were to live with him in Monaco until he was
able to resolve his visa issues for re-entry into the US. The courts,
including Colorado courts, will always attempt to encourage healthy and
meaningful relationships between parents and the children, unless danger
to the children exists. In this case, as it has been reported, since the
father was not able to travel to the US to visit them, the Judge decided
it would be in the best interest of the children for them to live in Monaco
and for Rutherford to visit her children there, since she had the financial
means to do it. Accordingly, the children could then have a relationship
with both parents.
However, this is where everything started going downhill for Rutherford.
After spending approximately three years visiting her children in Monaco,
it not only took a toll on her financially, but also emotionally and mentally
as well. She attempted to file for modification of the custody order.
However, since years have gone by since the last hearing and the children
no longer lived in California, and Rutherford was now living in New York,
the California judge ruled that this court no longer had jurisdiction
over the case - meaning it could not modify or change custody arrangements.
To make matters worse for the actress, when she attempted to file paperwork
in the New York court, the New York judge decided that Monaco was the
most proper location for the custody fight since the children had been
residing there for so long. The next decision that Rutherford made is
what most likely cost her the custody of her children, at least for some time.
During the summer of 2015, when the children were visiting Rutherford in
Manhattan pursuant to the court Order granting her summer vacations in
the US, Rutherford made a decision not to return the children at the end
of the visit in violation of the court Order. She claimed that the children
did not want to go, that one of the children was crying and her son even
stated that he was afraid. However, there was no evidence that the children
were in any kind of danger from their father or that they were exposed
to any type of abuse in Monaco. Rutherford is most likely a very good
mother who loves her children very much and just wants to be with them
in her own home. But this is not a good enough reason, in the eyes of
the court, to violate a court Order and take matters into your own hands
against a direct order from the court, without any justification. Naturally,
Giersch’s attorneys filed the proper paperwork in the New York court,
which now does have proper jurisdiction to make a ruling on the violation
of the Monaco court order, and the Court ordered the children back to
Monaco to live with their father. The decision to violate the court Order
will come back to haunt Rutherford for a long time and has most likely
ruined her chances of gaining residential custody of her children for
Colorado courts will always put the children first in any custody battle.
The standard of “in the best interest of the child” is applied
in Colorado courts and parents facing a custody battle need to understand
that this standard will be applied by the Judges, especially when facing
a violation of the current court order. Unless a parent can show that
it was in the best interest of the child to violate the court order and
that the child was going to be harmed in some way if the court order is
followed, that parent will face contempt claims before the court and will
have to face the consequences. A parent also has to understand that simply
believing that the order is not fair, or that the children do not want
to obey the order, is not a justification for violating the order. The
situation has to be such that if the court order is followed, it would
harm the child, put the child in danger, or something of the like. As
we saw in Rutherford’s case, children not wanting to go back to
Monaco is not a good enough reason to justify the violation. Colorado
judges will most likely tell that parent that the child is the child and
the parent is the parent: the child doesn’t get to tell the parent
what’s best for them; it’s the parent that should know better.
One aspect of court orders that most people don’t realize exists
is that unless the judge states otherwise, every parent is expected to
facilitate and support the other parent’s access and relationship
with the child. As already stated above, courts (including Colorado) will
place high importance on both parents developing relationships with the
child and if one of the parents not only refuses to support that development
and assist in facilitating it, but deliberately interferes with it, the
court will most likely find that parent to be in a violation of a court
order. Many people don’t think about this aspect of the violation,
because they are only focused on the written part of the order and exactly
which language and portion did they violate. But for the Colorado judges,
it goes deeper than just the written language. It shows the judge that
by violating a court order regarding the child’s custody arrangements,
that parent deliberately interfered with the child’s right to develop
and nurture the relationship with the other parent and that will never
be seen by the judge as in the best interest of the child (unless circumstances
stated above exist to justify the violation).
A court order is an
order. Not an option, not a suggestion, but an order. And violating it is a
violation. It doesn’t get more complicated than that. Keep in mind
that there is more to the order than just the written language: facilitating
healthy relationship between the child and the other parent is always
the order of the court. To put it in the simplest terms, if you are thinking
about violating a custody court order, just don’t.
If you are facing a custody battle or need assistance in other areas of
family law, please
contact the domestic team at Feldmann Nagel, LLC.