In what a federal court has described as an “unprecedented situation,” Gossip Girl star Kelly Rutherford is seeking help from the White House in an effort to bring her children, now ages eight and five, back to the United States. In an earlier blog post, we reported on the difficulties Rutherford was experiencing when a California court ruled that her children could remain in Europe with their father – a German businessman. The ruling stemmed from an ongoing custody battle between the parents and culminated in a ruling allowing the kids to stay with their father, who allegedly lost his visa and was not permitted to enter the United States. Child custody disputes are often the most emotional aspects of a divorce proceeding, especially if the parents live in different countries. For any child custody or support issue, you are encouraged to protect your rights by contacting an experienced family law attorney from the San Diego area, as early in the process as possible.
In California, parents may agree to the terms of a “parenting plan,” which essentially describes the child custody and visitation arrangement to be followed by the divorcing couple. Like any agreement, the terms may be general or specific and address any number of issues. If you are able to agree to the terms and draft your own plan (as opposed to the court crafting the arrangement), you will still need the court to sign off on the document. Once a parenting plan is signed by the parents and the judge and filed with the court, it becomes a court order. When thinking about the breadth and content of your potential custody and visitation arrangement, it is important to focus in large part on the particular needs of your children. Every single family case is different, and it is important to take into consideration the best interests of your child.
Parenting plans often address two key issues: physical and legal custody. Physical custody concerns where the children live and how they spend their time, such as where they stay during the week and on weekends, and who is responsible for transporting the children from one place to another. Legal custody, on the other hand, typically identifies who has the authority to make the important decisions about the children, such as schools, daycare, health care, and other significant matters. Both legal and physical custody may be further described as “joint” or “sole” (otherwise known as “primary”) custody.
Unfortunately, spouses often disagree as to the ideal custody arrangement. And even in cases where the court orders joint custody between the parents, there can still be disputes. Consider the above-mentioned custody battle that has been going on for six years. Rutherford and her husband shared joint custody, yet she is without the legal power to bring her children back to the United States. According to a news article, Rutherford is now petitioning the Obama Administration to return her children safely to the U.S. Specifically, the White House petition alleges that a California judge ruled that her kids could remain with their father in France after his U.S. visa was revoked and he was unable to come back to this country. The petition alleges that the father has failed to produce any evidence that he was denied entry. Furthermore, the father allegedly filed papers in Monaco seeking to have the children declared “habitual residents” and to eliminate Rutherford’s parental rights.
A federal court in New York is reviewing the case. It will be interesting to see how the petition is resolved. In any divorce case involving children, it is important to protect your family’s rights, and to do what is in the best interests of your kids. Roy M. Doppelt is an experienced and dedicated family law attorney, representing parents for more than 20 years in Southern California. His office serves clients in San Diego, Linda Vista, Encinitas, Scripps Ranch, and throughout Southern California. For a free consultation with a devoted and experienced family lawyer, contact Doppelt & Forney through the law firm’s website or give us a call toll-free at (800) ROY IS IT (769-4748).
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