Celebrity entertainment outlets often cover the legal skirmishes of Hollywood’s rich and famous. In addition to their entertainment value, these stories occasionally illustrate lessons applicable to daily life. Recently, an article on People.com detailed the protracted custody battle between actress Kelly Rutherford and her ex-husband, Daniel Giersch. The article alleges that over the course of their three-year case, Ms. Rutherford failed to notify Mr. Giersch of the birth of their daughter and accused him in court documents of dealing drugs and weapons internationally.
However, her allegations may have backfired on Ms. Rutherford, as they apparently led to the revocation of Mr. Giersch’s visa, which ultimately caused the court to decide that it was in the children’s best interest to remain in Monaco, where both parents could have regular contact with them. This was understandably upsetting to Ms. Rutherford, as she is a cast member of a sitcom filmed in New York City.
This story presents some valuable lessons even for those of us who can’t identify with summering in Monaco. First and foremost, there are serious ramifications for attempting to remove your spouse from the lives of your children. In Virginia, the Court must considers ten factors in determining the best interest of a child in custody and visitation cases. One of these factors is “the propensity of each parent to support the child’s contact and relationship with the other parent, including whether a parent has unreasonably denied the other parent access to or visitation with the child.”
There are two critical parts to this factor. The court examines both whether you are supporting the child’s contact and relationship with the other parent and whether you have unreasonably denied the other parent access. The Court will look at all actions taken by both parents after their separation. Actions such as Ms. Rutherford’s alleged failure to notify Mr. Giersch of the birth of his daughter speak volumes about her future intentions to support a close relationship. While a Judge may not expect you to invite your estranged spouse directly into the delivery room, you should at least extend the courtesy of letting him know you are in labor.
Co-Parenting In Virginia
The obligation to co-parent extends beyond Hollywood, with Virginia courts encouraging parents to communicate about school events, extracurricular activities, and any other issues that arise. Many Judges have become open to the use of technology such as Skype or FaceTime to facilitate contact between long-distance parents. See my colleague Stephanie Sauer’s blog post, Custody Software Highlights the Need for Communication, for more information about the intersection of technology and custody cases.
Co-parenting is not always easy, but failure to to keep the other parent involved may hurt you in the eyes of the court. An experienced custody attorney can help you evaluate your case and choose the best path for protecting your custody interests in the future. The custody lawyers at Livesay & Myers represent clients in Manassas, Fredericksburg, Fairfax and across Northern Virginia. If you are undergoing a custody or visitation case, contact us to schedule a consultation today.