LOS ANGELES (AP) — Actress Kelly Rutherford testified about her finances, travel and her ties to Los Angeles in an attempt to convince a judge to retain control over her international custody dispute with her ex-husband.
Rutherford joked and remained composed throughout most of the hearing, but she broke down in tears as she described how she has gradually seen her children less because they are living in Monaco with their father and she can't afford frequent trips overseas.
The "Melrose Place" and "Gossip Girl" actress told Superior Court Judge Mark Juhas that she lives in an apartment in New York so she can be closer to her children, but maintains family, financial and other personal ties to Los Angeles.
Rutherford and her ex-husband, Daniel Giersch, are engaged in a custody battle, with Rutherford seeking the return of her children to the U.S.
Juhas is holding a two-day hearing to determine whether he has the authority to make new custody orders in the case. Lawyers for Giersch contend California has lost jurisdiction because Rutherford moved to New York, and a court in Monaco is also handling custody issues.
Rutherford's attorney told Juhas that Rutherford maintains banking and other financial ties to Los Angeles, and has filed tax returns in California and New York because she spends time in both places. She has a New York driver's license, but it lists an address in Los Angeles.
Rutherford testified she has traveled to Monaco approximately 70 times to visit her children since 2013. She said her children stay with her in New York because it shortens their travel time from Monaco.
She broke down crying when describing how she has had to stop traveling as frequently due to her finances. She said that after a court first ruled the children should live overseas with their father, she would travel to Europe every three weeks.
"Then it became about when I could afford to go see them," Rutherford said, leaning back in her chair and fanning her face before breaking down.
The actress said she would like to spend more time in Los Angeles, where her parents live, but traveling to Europe and her finances made that impossible.
"I had to spend so much time in Europe," Rutherford said. "I'd love to be working, and to have my kids home and to have a normal life."
Rutherford filed for bankruptcy in May 2013 and said Thursday she is still trying to recover financially.
The children, ages 8 and 6, are currently spending their summer break at Rutherford's New York apartment. The actress said she keeps toys, clothes and pets — two rabbits and two kittens — for them when they're in the U.S.
Giersch, who was forced to leave the United States over immigration issues, listened to the hearing and began testifying Thursday afternoon via videoconferencing.
The two married in 2006 and filed for divorce in Los Angeles two years later. They were granted a divorce in July 2010 and continued to fight over custody until the 2013 order allowed Giersch to keep the children abroad.
Rutherford also has accused her ex-husband of trying to have a Monaco court change the kids' citizenship. Giersch's filing states the Monaco court lacks authority to do that, and no request to alter the children's dual U.S.-German citizenship has been made.
Giersch was born in Germany.
Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP