We all know the story by now. Or, if we don’t know the story, we at least know the headlines: Kelly Rutherford has spent the last few years of her life—and just about all of her money—trying to keep her kids in the United States and out of Monaco, where their father, Daniel Giersch, resides. The saga has been popping up in the news every few weeks for years, and Vanity Fair just published the most substantial reporting done on the matter since it all began.

The piece is told primarily from Rutherford’s perspective, as VF’s requests to Giersch and his lawyer, Fahi Takesh Hallin, for comment were declined. In it, Rutherford recounts that she and Giersch were quite happy when the relationship began, and that those close to her grew suspicious of his intentions long before she did.

Sheila Weller, the author of the piece, writes:

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“He seemed very, very cold and calculated,” her half-brother says. “But I love my sister, and if this guy was going to make her happy, I was not going to be the one to bring up any negativity.”

Rutherford said things started to get bad when their first child, Hermes, was two:

“Daniel was subtly verbally abusive,” she says when I meet her at Ralph Lauren’s Polo Bar, in Manhattan in late June. It seemed “he was trying to alienate me from everyone in my life—my parents, my brother.”

So, while three months pregnant with their second child, Helena, she filed for divorce. But her initial desire for “50-50 legal custody, with her as the primary residential parent” wasn’t accepted by Giersch:

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“I didn’t want any money from Daniel,” she says. “I wanted us both to be great parents. I wasn’t asking for full custody”—rather, 50-50 legal custody, with her as the primary residential parent. Giersch went further. He sued for sole legal and physical custody of Hermes and of the not-yet-born infant daughter, Helena.

And then the legal battle began. Rutherford claimed her children were sick of going back and forth between countries to see their parents, after which Giersch’s lawyer claimed Rutherford’s “gatekeeping” was “excessive.” This sort of thing kept happening:

When a child evaluator admitted to being “perplexed” that Giersch had recently driven the “infant”—Helena—around in a car seat in the front seat of a Porsche convertible, Hallin pounced on the fact that it was Rutherford who had alerted the evaluator to the incident.

Jezebel has written about this story plenty of times in the past, and each time we do, we receive comments and emails that share differing versions of a particular incident involving a phone call to the U.S. State Department which is largely unmentioned in stories by tabloids like People. (Most publications that write about this story receive similar comments from fathers’ rights groups.) Rutherford has no business having full custody because of that phone call, they say. It’s her fault all of this happened in the first place! But, as Vanity Fair explains, it’s a little more complicated than that:

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“A lawyer named Matthew Rich,” whom Rutherford claims she had never seen or heard of at the time of the incident, said he knew of “some questionable aspects of the visa Giersch said he had obtained in 2009.” So, while “standing in the hall outside the courtroom,” he called the U.S. State Department to “follow up on prior conversations with them regarding ‘information they had that Giersch was in the country unlawfully and was thus a risk for abducting his children.’”

“Hallin forcefully argued that it was straight-up-and-down harassment of her client,” but Rutherford claims she had no idea Rich intended to make that call. A month later, Giersch’s visa was revoked (perhaps because of that call), and he was barred from entering the United States—leaving Rutherford with the burden of flying back and forth herself, which was a factor in her filing for bankruptcy. (She has made “more than 70 round-trip visits in all” in three years, and Giersch is only required to pay for 6 per year.)

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But is Giersch actually banned from entering the US? Nothing about this custody battle, as this piece makes wonderfully clear, is black and white. Rutherford’s current lawyer, a Boston-based “impact litigator” named Murphy (who’s working on the case pro-bono), claims “she has never seen any proof that Giersch cannot enter the country on his passport alone” and that “she has a State Department letter stating that a new visa application for Giersch is not in the pipeline.” So which is it? Can Giersch leave or must he stay? No one seems to know, but he certainly hasn’t left.

“In June, Monaco granted Rutherford the right to fly the children to the United States for five weeks over the summer,” but once those five weeks were up, Rutherford “released a statement saying that she was keeping them,” which Hallin says “turned [her] into a felon.”

In an email to Weller, Hallin continued:

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“[She] has kidnapped the children…. Child abduction is a crime, and everyone involved in kidnapping or abducting the children will face the appropriate legal consequences.”

Eventually, the children were returned to Monaco by Griersch’s mother, but Rutherford was able to visit them “when they started school.” As for how all of this will resolve itself, Weller writes that “lawyer-pundits have predicted that she will end up, at best, with supervised visitation.”

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Isn’t that just the most exhausting story? I mean sure, it’s undeniably more exhausting to be living that nightmare and not simply reading about it, but there’s something about reading paragraph after paragraph of international legal arguments and still feeling like you’re not getting the whole picture that’s uniquely grueling in the world of celebrity gossip. As thorough as it is, Weller’s piece (which is absolutely worth reading in full) still leaves you sighing and thinking, “Welp!”

And the bleakest thing of all? At the center of this endless battle are two children who can do nothing but hop on and off planes whenever they’re told and tell their parents that they love them. Divorce sure can suck.


Contact the author at bobby@jezebel.com.

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Image via Getty.