As she awaits yet another hearing on the fate of her two children, Kelly Rutherford headed to Washington, D.C., to fight for the rights of parents facing their own international custody battles.
Rutherford, 46, spoke at a congressional briefing with Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee from Texas on Thursday, participating on behalf of the Children’s Justice Campaign, an advocacy group she founded based on her own struggle to bring son Hermes, 8, and daughter Helena, 6, home to the United States from Monaco, where they have lived with their father, German businessman Daniel Giersch, since 2012.
“Today’s hearing was a wonderful bipartisan showing of support for American families in the midst of international parental child abduction nightmares,” she tells PEOPLE in a statement. “I look forward to continuing to lend my voice to parents who are struggling with these profoundly unjust situations.
“I was particularly excited to hear several members of Congress say that they are proposing new federal legislation that will hold judges accountable and stop them from forcing American children to leave their own country.”
Jackson, 65, chairs the bipartisan House Congressional Children’s Caucus. Rep. Christopher Smith and Rep. Ted Lieu also attended and spoke at the briefing.
International parental child abduction “occurs when one parent unlawfully moves a child from his or her country of residence for the purpose of denying the other parent access to the child,” according to a CRC news release. About 1,000 cases have been reported to the State Department this year.
Rutherford and Giersch have been locked in a custody dispute for six years. A Monaco judge ruled Monday that their children will spend their summer with their mother in United States, as they have in years past. Giersch, 41, wants the kids to continue to reside with him in the European principality, but Rutherford argues they should be returned to American soil.
The parents are due in Los Angeles court July 9.