Kelly Rutherford Custody Case Rife With Misinformation

GEO#1Kelly Rutherford is an American actress who began her career in daytime soap operas, later moving to primetime network television in Melrose Place and Gossip Girls. However, she is much more famous today for her custody battle with ex-husband, Daniel Giersch.

Her court case has enraged media pundits who are slamming the family courts in California and New York, expressing outrage that Kelly Rutherford’s two American-born children were ordered to live in Europe with their father, an alleged breach of their constitutional rights. But if the television “experts” actually knew anything about custody law they would understand that it’s not the courts who are to blame, it’s Ms. Rutherford’s wrongheaded strategy.

A little background… Rutherford had a six-month first marriage and then married German businessman Daniel Giersch in August 2006. Their first child, Hermes Gustaf Daniel Giersch, was born in October 2006. Rutherford was two-months pregnant with their second child when she filed for divorce from Giersch on December 30, 2008

A custody battle immediately ensued with Mr. Giersch alleging his wife refused to tell him the expected birthdate of their daughter, Helena. After her birth she restricted his parenting time and also failed to register him as the father on her birth certificate. Rutherford either had bad legal advice, or more likely, ignored the advice she received. A sure way to sabotage a custody claim is to deny access and purposely decline to name the child’s father on the birth certificate.

But after seven months of legal wrangling in the California courts the couple agreed they would both live in New York City so Ms. Rutherford could continue with her work on Gossip Girls, an agreement that would expire in April 2010.

In 2012 the matter of final custody was adjudicated, resulting in an order that the two children live with their father in either Monaco or France. During the court proceedings, evidence was presented that showed that Ms. Rutherford contacted United States immigration resulting in Mr. Giersch’s expulsion from the United States. A wrongheaded strategy that clearly backfired on Ms. Rutherford. If her former husband had been permitted to remain in the United States it is unlikely she would have spent a million or more dollars fighting over custody and also avoided going personally bankrupt.

Trial evidence included reports that Ms. Rutherford’s work commitments, including twenty-hour work days, led to Mr. Giersch playing “Mr. Mom” in his wife’s absence. The judge also criticized Ms. Rutherford for misleading the court with respect to her work schedule and was unimpressed with her unwillingness to facilitate access. All good reasons to prefer Mr. Giersch as primary resident parent.

Ms. Rutherford went back to the California courts to change the custody order but the court ruled they no longer had jurisdiction. Neither of the parties lived there; Ms. Rutherford lived in New York while her ex-husband lived in Europe and neither of the children resided in California.

Happily for Ms. Rutherford, the children were with her for the summer of 2015.

Her lawyer then brought an application to the New York courts seeking an order that the children remain with her in New York. Unfortunately, the court declined jurisdiction on the basis the children were now habitually resident in Monaco, and only the Monaco court could make orders regarding the children.

In her latest strategic misstep, Ms. Rutherford refused to return the children to their father, causing the New York court to step in and order her and the children to appear in court where Mr. Giersch’s mother took custody of the children and returned them to her son.

It’s a familiar story: parents really have only one opportunity to obtain or retain custody or primary residence of their children. If they make mistakes, like Ms. Rutherford did, the chance of a change in residence is extremely remote. Her next best opportunity is when the children are able to speak for themselves, usually around the age of 13, but only if they want to live with their mother.

In the new world of shared parenting, mothers do not have a monopoly on child custody. That’s the past…this is the present…and the future.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Country Superstars Blake and Miranda to Divorce

GAL & PAL #2jpgIsn’t it funny that we can feel a profound sadness when people we don’t know announce they’re divorcing? In our world of 24/7 multi-media we get to know the celebrities we admire, the ones we pay big dollars to see their concerts and buy their records.

I became a fan of Blake Shelton when he was a judge on “The Voice”. His weekly banter with hunk Adam Levine and their tender teasing of each other, showed us Blake’s personality and his sense of humour. He made me want to know more about him, I became interested in his life in the southern United States with his wife Miranda Lambert.

Just like every celebrity “It” couple, the tabloids waxed and waned about every aspect of their lives. Was Miranda too fat? Did she resent Blake’s career success? Who made more money? Was Blake drinking too much and was he imbibing right on the show?

Just when trash journalism overloaded the public with Miranda’s weight issue, she became skinny! Entertainment Tonight said she lost 20 lbs. while competitor Hollywood Life declared it was 45 lbs. And following on the heels of the weight loss debate came the incessant speculation that Blake was cheating or was it Miranda? Depended upon what day it was and what whether it was People magazine or TMZ.

But where there is smoke there’s fire and today their press agents released the news that they filed for divorce two weeks ago and the divorce order has already come through.

While they met in 2005, two years after Miranda came in third place on reality singing show Nashville Star, they tied the knot in 2011 before 550 friends and relatives; the elite of Nashville, including my fave, Reba McIntyre, Kelly Clarkson, Trace Adkins and the rest of country music’s who’s who.

Blake later admitted that he fell in love with Miranda when he performed with her, even though he was married at the time. He and his first wife, Kaynette Gern, divorced in 2006.

Shelton and Lambert have more than a fistful of nominations and wins in all the major awards show including the Grammy’s, and Blake Shelton has coached more winners on The Voice than any of his co-stars.

For all their success, they failed at their most important roles: husband and wife.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Bill Cosby’s Friends Jump the Sinking Ship

_DSC4179 - Version 2Hollywood’s silence over the Bill Cosby rape allegations is hypocrisy at its finest. The celebrity personalities who are usually the first to voice their condemnation, whether asked or not, are either eerily quiet or entirely dismissive of the charges of over thirty mature women. It is scandalous to hear Hollywood feminists like Whoopi Goldberg and Phylicia Rashad suggest that Cosby’s victims are conspiring to destroy his legacy. It is classic victim-blaming. But worst of all, where is Oprah Winfrey, the queen of scandal?

But the tide is slowly turning against Bill Cosby as his supporters and defenders, silent and otherwise, are jumping ship, including Whoopi Goldberg who just this week resiled from her audacious support of Cosby, under pressure from her employer, the ABC Television network.

John and Jane Doe Public are also taking steps to take Cosby down a notch or two from the revered position he has held for decades.

The non-profit organization “Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment”, a support group for sexual assault victims, has launched a campaign to revoke Bill Cosby’s Presidential Medal of Freedom, with an online petition on the White House’s “We the People” page. If they obtain 100,000 signatures by August 7, 2015 the White House is obliged to review and respond to the petition.

Central State University, a black college in Wilberforce, Ohio have covered up Cosby’s name on the university building named for him and his wife Camille, the Camille O. and William H. Cosby Mass Communications Centre. College officials have said they will decide whether to rename the building in the next few months.

In Orlando, Florida Walt Disney World has removed a statue of Bill Cosby that was erected at Disney’s Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame Plaza.

In Cosby’s hometown of Philadelphia a public mural, painted in 2008 celebrating Father’s Day, with Bill Cosby between South African leader Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, is now scheduled for removal.

Back in Hollywood, black civil rights leaders have asked the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce to remove Cosby’s star from their Walk of Fame, while industry insiders recognized his tarnished reputation months ago and cancelled a proposed new sitcom on NBC. Network TV Land removed their reruns of the 1980s-era “The Cosby Show” and Netflix cancelled a scheduled comedy special. Several other smaller networks, with an African-American focus, have also jumped ship.

Perhaps the biggest blow to Bill Cosby’s deny-deny strategy was the release this week of a videotape from a court proceeding in 2005 where Cosby drugged and allegedly sexually assaulted a female victim who sued him in civil court. In the video Cosby admits, under oath, that he plied his victim with quaaludes hoping for a sexual encounter.

Mr. Cosby settled the 2005 case for an unknown sum of money, which is the only way he can be punished for his criminal behaviour, since the United States has archaic limitation laws which provide that after a certain period of time an offender cannot be charged with a criminal offence. Canada does not have those restrictive laws.

For example, in Nevada, the locale of several of the current assault allegations, unless a victim files a written report within four years no criminal charges can be brought.

While reformers have lobbied for years to change the limitation laws, California celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred says that legislatures are very reluctant to do so and face powerful interest groups that lobby against it, including shockingly, Catholic clergy organizations.

While civil lawsuits can also face problems related to delay, my wish is that Bill Cosby face the music in civil court as soon as possible so that his victims can be compensated and exonerated where they have been called liars.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Fashion Stylists Say Female Lawyers Lack Pizazz

DSC00507 (2)It was a beautiful day in Vancouver, hot and sunny, and with a little time to spare that day I decided to attend the swearing in ceremony of a newly appointed Court of Appeal judge, taking place at the Courthouse across the street from my office.

As I approached the courtroom I observed a sea of black-suited lawyers and slipped into one of the last remaining seats. As we waited for the proceedings to commence I noticed how many women lawyers were in attendance, more than usual, since the new judge was a well-respected female lower court judge.

Looking around I suddenly felt so out of place. I was wearing a mauve leather swing skirt, a very feminine pink and mauve blouse, and mauve three inch stiletto heels, in stark contrast to my female colleagues who were outfitted in boring black suits, mostly made of polyester, and sensible shoes that resembled oxfords.

After the ceremony an invitation was extended to join the Chief Justice for refreshments. Normally I wouldn’t hesitate to join the fun, but that day I declined, not wanting to “stand out” in the crowd. (That statement may be hard to believe, but true!)

That brings me to a controversial article in a California legal newsletter, The Marin Lawyer, written by fashion stylists Jill Sperber, also a lawyer, and Susan Pereczek, directed at lawyers in Marin County, an affluent area north of San Francisco that boasts the fifth highest income per capita in the United States at over $90,000 per annum.

In their article titled “Beyond Black: Revising the Lawyer Dress Code for Women” the stylists opine that “female lawyers in Marin are not winning their cases in the Style Department”, a statement that has elicited critical cries of blatant sexism.

As part of their investigation Ms. Sperber and Ms. Pereczek spent two mornings at the Marin County Courthouse where in their roles as “fashion police” they saw:

“mostly non-descript black pants (we counted a few skirts) with button downs or blouses in white or muted tones. Some didn’t bother with jackets. Few wore accessories.”

On the list of fashion faux pas they identified a lawyer wearing a burgundy velvet blazer on a spring day, and another in a tight knit striped miniskirt with a mismatched stripe blazer over a neon blouse, and teetering mules. It’s not a pretty picture!

Among their fashion “dos and don’ts” they suggest is a move away from black suits to a more colourful palette. They also urge female lawyers to use accessories to brighten up and polish their professional look.

A light-hearted article with good advice…what’s wrong with that?

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Goldie Hawn’s Ex Accuses Her of Parental Alienation

DSC00280How could you not fall in love with Goldie Hawn? She was the giggly blonde, with her bikini and body paint on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, a role that launched her career.

Do you also remember the Hudson Brothers? Bill, Mark and Brett were three very handsome young men who hit the pop charts in the early 70’s and later appeared on their own television show. Their stars were rising at about the same time that Goldie Hawn’s career took off.

Bill and Goldie married in 1976, a marriage that lasted only four years, but produced two talented children, Kate Hudson, age 36, now a famous actress in her own right, and Oliver Hudson, age 38, a model and actor who currently appears in the TV show “Nashville”.

Those of you who keep up to date on celebrity activities know that Ms. Hawn began living with Kurt Russell, a successful child actor who made a small fortune for Walt Disney with his ten-year contract. He has had a prolific Hollywood career since that time.

Celebrity journalists often hinted at a serious rift between Bill Hudson and Goldie Hawn, an uncoupling that has festered over the years, but until this week the extent of their animosity was kept under wraps. That is until Father’s Day 2015 when Bill saw a photo on Instagram that immediately put a damper on what had been a wonderful Father’s Day. His son, Oliver, had posted a heart-warming photo of Bill with Kate and Oliver taken 30 years earlier, two cute toddlers with their handsome father. The caption read:

“Happy Abandonment Day….@katehudson”

The post went viral and thousands of people commented on the good, the bad, and the ugly of absentee fathers. Later, Bill saw that Kate posted a photo of herself alongside Kurt Russell with the caption: “Pa, just simply…thank you. Happy Father’s Day. I love you to the moon and back.”

Bill was devastated by Oliver’s message and angry that Oliver believed Bill had walked away from him and Kate. As Bill’s phone rang off the hook he decided it was time to answer the allegations that he had abandoned his children.

He agreed to sit for an interview with the United Kingdom’s Daily Mail where he got a few things off his chest.

“When we split up, she never had a bad word to say about me. But when Kurt came on the scene, the narrative changed and I became the big, bad wolf. I would say to her “Goldie, why are you trashing me and saying I’m an absent father when it’s simply not the case? and she’d laugh and go “Oh Bill, you know it makes for a better story. I believe the drip, drip, drip of poison which started when they were kids finally took hold. Goldie wanted to create this myth of a perfect family with Kurt and she wanted me out.”

In the interview Bill confirmed that gradually Kate and Oliver rejected their relationship with him, although initially he lived on the beach in Malibu not far from Goldie and was part of the children’s lives for years, including weekends and family holidays. He wrote a letter to his children every week, but now wonders whether they were given the letters. He also takes objection to Kate’s statement that she never even received a birthday card from him. He says that he sent a card every year to each of his children and called them faithfully on every birthday.

Meanwhile in the social media flurry, Oliver responded to one post saying:

“What started out as what I thought as a joke has turned into something more. And I embrace that. I’ve done and continue to do a lot of work on myself to better understand what make me tick. Yes, science links us but love binds us.”

It is hard to say where the truth lies but Bill Hudson’s reply to the allegations rings true to me and is typical of stories of parental alienation I have heard over the years.

He ends his interview saying that Kate and Oliver will no longer be in his life and that if they are that unhappy they should change their last names, a sad and bitter conclusion to many years of hurt and misunderstanding.

Oliver’s suggestion that his post began as a joke is disingenuous and childish coming from a 38-year old man. I’d say he needs to continue “working on himself” and if Bill Hudson’s protestations are true, then Goldie Hawn should be ashamed of her behaviour.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Tabloid Fame Increases Chances of Divorce in Hollywood

_DSC4179 - Version 2In a tongue-in-cheek article in the New York Times, writer John Tierney re-introduces his practically fail-proof formula, designed in 2006, for predicting the demise of Hollywood marriages, by relying on his friend, Garth Sundem’s statistical expertise, and his own in-depth literature review of articles published and sold in reading material at supermarket check-out lines. All in all a very impressive and scientific analysis!

The formula they devised includes considerations of the relative fame of the husband and wife, their ages, the length of their courtship, their marital history, and perhaps most importantly, the sex-symbol quotient of the wife, ascertained by looking at her first five google hits and counting how many of them feature either no attire, or skimpy attire.

In their 2012 New York Times update, they confirm the relative success of the “Sundem/Tierney Unified Celebrity Theory” by pointing out their accurate predictions in respect of the collapse of the unions of Demi Moore/Ashton Kuchter, Britney Spears/Kevin Federline and Pamela Anderson/Kid Rock. (Note: Also Pamela Anderson/Richard Salomon)

They also herald the success of their formula with respect to the intact marriages of Jennifer Garner/Ben Affleck and Matt Damon/Luciana Barroso. Their few failures include Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, but time will tell. (Note: We now know they successfully predicted the Cruise/Holmes disintegration)

While they modestly don’t mention it, it seems their equation also works in respect of the relationships of Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony, Hulk and Linda Hogan, Tiger Woods and his lovely ex-wife, and so many others.

In light of their recent reassessment of their theory, they have refined certain of their criteria; the major change being the recognition that rather than reviewing Google hits, a more effective formula is measuring the number of New York Times references, divided by the number of mentions in the National Enquirer.

As they move forward with this important research they acknowledge that a wife’s tabloid fame is now probably the best indicator of the success or failure of a marriage. I’d say that Kim Kardashian’s first divorce confirms this reality and her chances of a lifetime liaison with Kanye West are exceedingly remote. Time will tell as to the fate of George Clooney and Amal Clooney…

I’m glad these guys don’t take themselves too seriously!

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Guest Post: 50 Shades of Grey Boycott

In 1990, the highly successful film “Pretty Woman”, took theatres by storm with the highest ticket sales in history for a romantic comedy.

Today, the film’s cultural impact on a whole generation has been significant, swapping the brutal and exploitive nature of prostitution with glamour and romance. Many of the young people that I talk to about human trafficking tell me their sole impression of prostitution is based on Pretty Woman.

This past Valentine’s Day, another film arrived to warp the minds of a new generation. “50 Shades of Grey”, a film based on the bestselling book of the same name, is being portrayed as a ‘date night’ movie of romance and intrigue. Except that the movie (and the book) is about humiliation, degradation, and the emotional and physical abuse of women by men.

The fairy-tale ending of the film, just like Pretty Woman, is one that millions of victims of sexual violence never experience. As one survivor of sexual violence shared “50 Shades is a horrible reminder of my own abusive relationship, repackaged as a ‘love story’”.

Nevertheless, 50 Shades of Grey will convey to countless women that abuse and coercion can be romantic, and to men that deep down women like to be controlled and assaulted.

Many supporters of 50 Shades of Grey claim that female lead, Anastasia, always consented to the abuse. However consent, under physical or psychological duress is not consent. It’s no different for prostituted women. Many of them have often shared with me that, until separated from their abusive pimp or trafficker, they ‘consented’ to selling sex.’

Even Jamie Dornan, the lead actor playing Christian Grey, was uncomfortable with the nature of the character saying: “There were times when Dakota was not wearing much, and I had to do stuff to her that I’d never choose to do to a woman.”

Jamie also revealed that while he has “played a couple of sick, sick dudes, serial killers…and characters who don’t treat women the way society deems appropriate, Christian was a massive challenge.” (Editor’s note: See British show “The Fall” on Netflix where Jamie plays a serial killer and rapist)

Despite the popularity of 50 Shades of Grey, leading women’s rights advocates are speaking out. Dr. Gail Dines, a professor at Boston’s Wheelock College, and Megan Walker, Executive Director of the London Abused Women’s Centre, have joined forces to launch the #50dollarsnot50shades campaign encouraging people to donate the money they would have spent on 50 Shades of Grey to a women’s shelter instead. This is an important campaign and an excellent opportunity to raise awareness about sexual violence.

Today, we have come a long way in Canada when it comes to women’s equality and rights. So it is critical that we continue to cultivate a society that affirms the value and dignity of women and sends a clear message that sexual violence is never romantic or acceptable.

We can start by boycotting a film that glamourizes abuse and exploitation and instead support the survivors of sexual violence and women’s shelters in our communities.

We cannot allow 50 Shades to influence another vulnerable population of youth like Pretty Woman. The cost is too high.

The Honourable Joy Smith, B.Ed., M.Ed.
Member of Parliament
Kildonan – St. Paul