Kelly Rutherford talked to PEOPLE about her kids, Helena and Hermes, at the 20th Anniversary Smile Train Gala

By Hanna Flanagan
May 03, 2019 03:03 PM

Kelly Rutherford says she’s doing “great” these days despite her bitter divorce from German businessman Daniel Giersch and the six-year custody battle that followed.

At Thursday’s Smile Train 20th Anniversary Gala, the Gossip Girl actress, 50, told PEOPLE that she sees her children (daughter Helena, 9, and son Hermes, 12, whom she legally lost custody of in 2015) often and that both are “wonderful.”

“They’re just growing so fast,” Rutherford, who currently stars on Freeform’s series The Perfectionists, told PEOPLE. “They’re just becoming their own people like, you know, all of us. It’s beautiful to see, and I love that they share it with me. They’re really open with me. We’re just really bonding, which is nice.”

Smile Train is a nonprofit that provides free corrective surgeries to children with cleft palettes all around the world. Thursday’s gala was also attended by musician Alexa Ray Joel, Real Housewives alumna Kristen Taekman, former NBA player Dikembe Mutombo, chef Graham Elliot, Miss Universe Pia Wutzbach and Miss USA Olivia Jordan.

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Joe Schildhorn/BFA

As PEOPLE previously reported, Rutherford’s children Helena and Hermes live in Monaco with Giersch, who was awarded full custody in 2015. Rutherford confirmed to PEOPLE last night that both children still live overseas with their father, but says she has a close relationship with them nevertheless.

In 2012, a California judged ruled that living in Monaco with Giersch was in the best interest of the children because his work visa had been revoked, barring him from returning to the United States. Rutherford opened up to PEOPLE in April 2015 about the headline-making divorce after a federal court denied her request for Hermes and Helena to move back to New York.

Kelly Rutherford with Helena and Hermes
Kelly Rutherford/Instagram

“I’ve always wanted my kids to have a relationship with him, and I’ve really only encouraged that all along. When I went into court, I never asked for money, and I never asked for full custody,” Rutherford previously told PEOPLE. “I just wanted what was right for them and their well-being moving forward. And what happened over the next six years was the most surreal, bizarre, unimaginable thing.”

That May, she was granted temporary sole custody by a California court, although the decision was overturned due to jurisdiction. Just a few months later, Rutherford refused to fly her children back to Monaco, as imposed by her court-ordered arrangement.

“These past three years waiting for my children to come home have been very difficult. My children were forced to leave the United States in 2012 when they were only 2 and 5 years old,” she said in a statement at the time. “In May, a judge in California gave me sole custody and brought them home. I am immensely grateful and overjoyed to have them back. Since May, however, the court proceedings have been confusing.”

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But that summer, a judge sent the children back to Europe for good with Giersch, allowing Rutherford to visit her kids abroad.

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