Celebs Who Lost Custody Battles For Their Children

With the spotlight shining squarely on celebrities, the intimate details of their private lives are exposed to the public. Despite the semi-regular parent-shaming they face, most celebrities appear, at least on the surface, well-suited to be parents, if only because of their wealth and access to resources. But we know there's a lot more to raising kids than that, and even celebrity parents have problems.

Sure, the Madonnas and Angelina Jolies of the celebrity world make parenting look easy. At least, they make international adoption look like a breeze. But, for some, it's not so simple. In fact, the celebrities on this list found holding onto their children very difficult. Some abused drugs, some abused alcohol, and some allegedly abused other people, but they all paid for it in family court. Then there are the stars who were simply too busy for primary custody. The following famous folk are all here for different reasons, but each of them know the feeling of having their children taken from them.

Here are celebs who lost custody of their children.

Kelly Rutherford

Actress Kelly Rutherford's already long and bitter custody battle over her two children reached a new low after a family court's 2012 decision that allowed her two children to stay with their father Daniel Giersch in Monaco. According to People, the California judge decided on this setup because Giersch was unable to return to United States and Rutherford had the flexibility and resources to travel between countries.

Three years later, while Rutherford had her children with her for summer vacation in the United States, she made a very bold and very risky decision. She decided not to return her kids to their father in Monaco based on her claim that "in May [of that year], a judge in California gave [her] sole custody." However, People reported that courts in both California and New York determined they didn't have jurisdiction in the case. In a statement (per People), Rutherford said that "the court proceedings have been confusing." She determined that "no state in this country is currently protecting my children," adding, "It also means that no state in this country currently requires me to send the children away." 

The decision backfired. In August of 2015, Rutherford was forced to return the children and, later that year, a judge ruled that Rutherford should lose custody because there was a "strong risk of the children's abduction and retention in the United States."

Kim Delaney

Kim Delaney, the actress best known for playing a detective on NYPD Blue, has had her fair share of troubles with the law in real life. She was arrested on drunk driving charges in 2002 after police responded to calls of an erratic driver on the Pacific Coast Highway. Three years later, Delaney found herself in court battling for custody of her then-15-year-old son. According to People, the boy testified against his mother, claiming she put his life in danger while driving drunk with him in the car. He alleged that Delaney showed up under the influence to pick him up from a friend's house.

"I attempted to keep her from driving her car," he stated in his testimony. "But she was very demanding. My mother demanded that my friend go with us. He refused to drive with her because she was drunk. Unfortunately this is not the only incident in which I have seen my mother drunk."

Delaney's son, who was living with his father, added "I do not want to be with her until she has completed rehab and is sober. I am very concerned for my safety when I am with her." The judge agreed and issued custody to Delaney's ex-husband.

Sharon Stone

After a 2007 custody battle between Sharon Stone and her ex-husband Phil Bronstein, the courts ordered that the two share "joint legal and physical custody" of their adopted son Roan, adding that the child attend school in San Francisco near his father (per The Daily Mail). Stone accepted this but got to work on an appeal to modify the order. Her lawyer, Marty Singer, told Entertainment Tonight (via People) that the Basic Instinct star "felt it would be better to have her child in Los Angeles," so he could be closer to his two younger siblings. In 2008, Stone took her shot, attempting to have the courts change the arrangement, but she was unable to "meet a burden to move him out of San Francisco during the school year," according to Singer, who also insisted that Stone and Bronstein still shared custody of Roan following the ruling. 

However, according to court documents, it appeared that the language of the ensuing court order challenged Stone's previous joint custody agreement. "Court finds that (Bronstein) can provide a more structured continuity, stable, secure, and consistent home that child, Roan, needs. (Bronstein) shall have permanent sole physical custody of child," read the court minutes. Even Stone herself admitted to ET in 2015 that she "lost custody" of "a child [she] was raising from far away" during a tumultuous time of personal struggle following her divorce from Bronstein. 

Harvey Keitel

The custody struggle between Harvey Keitel and Lorraine Bracco for their daughter, Stella, is one of the more complex custody cases in Hollywood history. In 1996, after a lengthy battle in the courts, Keitel lost his fight for custody of his daughter with the judge citing Keitel's "destructive conduct" as the primary driver in the ruling, according to The New York Daily News. The actor's "frankness" and "poor judgement," as well as his alleged drug use and violent outbursts also reportedly played into the decision 

The "frankness" and "poor judgement" claims refer to a few anecdotes from Keitel's parenting past, such as the photos a six-year-old Stella took of Keitel and friends, some in towels and without pants, before the Academy Awards. There was also a phone message Stella left for Bracco riddled with curse words that "dad taught" her. A law guardian in the case recommended that Bracco retain custody because, "clearly, this man (Keitel) has no limits."

But the story gets more convoluted. As part of Keitel's plea for custody, he urged the courts to consider the sexual abuse allegations against Bracco's husband, Edward James Olmos, (per The New York Daily News). In 1992, Olmos was accused of sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl. After reviewing the allegations, the family court judge decided the allegations were unsubstantiated. Despite granting Bracco custody of Stella, Olmos was referred to counseling and ordered never to be alone with Keitel's daughter.

Woody Allen

The ugly custody battle between Woody Allen and Mia Farrow concluded in 1993 with Mia retaining custody of the couple's three children. According to the Chicago Tribune, the judge's verdict included a harsh reproach of Woody, calling the director "self-absorbed, untrustworthy and insensitive." Woody's visitation rights to his adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, were also restricted, a response to the sexual abuse allegations made by Dylan the summer earlier.

Despite a team of experts stating that Woody had not abused the child, the judge presiding over the case determined the evidence was "inconclusive," adding that "a further review of visitation will be considered only after we are able to evaluate the progress of Dylan's therapy," according to The New York Times. Woody's visitation rights for his other two children were were also altered. He was granted three supervised weekly visits with his biological son, Satchel (who now goes by Ronan Farrow), however the judge "said he would accede to (Woody's older, adopted son Moses') wishes that he not be forced to see his father."

Woody vowed to appeal the decision (which he did, but lost two years later), and said in a statement that he was "thrilled" to receive limited visitation with Dylan, since she'd "been withheld from [him]" for almost a year at the time. Mia further attempted to have Woody's legal adoption of Dylan and Moses overturned, but she was ultimately unsuccessful

Britney Spears

There was a time when Britney Spears was front page news for all the wrong reasons. Her fall from grace in late 2007/early 2008 reached the bottom when she lost custody of her two sons to her ex-husband, Kevin Federline. During the custody battle, Spears was ordered "to undergo random drug testing and counseling," according to MTV. The twice-weekly tests were the result of the presiding judge declaring that Spears partook in the "habitual, frequent and continuous use" of controlled substances.

One of Spears' former bodyguards, Tony Barretto, also claimed (via The New York Times) that he had witnessed Spears take drugs on more than one occasion. The proceedings came to a head when Spears was unable to present a valid driver's license and was accused of not taking the required drug and alcohol tests (via MTV). As a result, the singer was ordered to relinquish custody of the children to Federline "until further order of the court."

Speaking with The New York Times, Barretto's lawyer, Gloria Allred said, "I believe that removing custody from Ms. Spears is the shock treatment that Britney Spears needs." However, as of this writing, it's been over a decade and Federline still has custody of the boys, according to Us Weekly. In fact, the exes even renegotiated their child support arrangement in September 2018 (via The Blast), with Federline said to be receiving "thousands more a month" in addition to the $20,000 he previously collected. 

Courtney Love

Courtney Love's custody battles for the daughter she shared with the late Kurt Cobain, Frances Bean, raged on for years. In 2003, Cobain's mother, Wendy O'Connor, was given temporary custody of Frances Bean after a scary and potentially deadly evening for Love. According to the Independent, Love was first arrested for smashing windows at a friend's house. Shortly after her release from jail that same night, emergency responders found Love suffering from the effects of a drug overdose. CNN additionally reported that Love also "made a suicide threat." It took more than a year for Love to regain custody of her daughter. 

After an alleged "period of unstable conduct by Courtney Love," the rocker once again lost custody of Frances Bean in 2009, according to TMZ. The courts awarded guardianship of a then-17-year-old Frances Bean to O'Connor and Cobain's sister, Kimberly Dawn Cobain. The tab additionally reported that the judge issued a temporary restraining order that prohibited Love from contacting Frances Bean as well, possibly in relation to a report of domestic abuse.

At the time, Love took to Facebook to voice his displeasure with her family. "Welcome to the hidden, secret, ugly, white-trash, money grubbing side of the family," she posted (via People). "Please don't judge the Bean by it. She's a great person, they're just gross." 

John Heard

John Heard and and fellow actor Melissa Leo battled for custody of their son for more than 10 years, according to New York Magazine. Heard, who was fighting for sole custody, hurt any chance he had when he was arrested for assaulting Leo. After returning his son to Leo's home from a weekend visit, Heard allegedly slapped Leo. Making matters worse, two police officers watched. He also allegedly made more than 100 phone calls to Leo's house in just two months.

E! News reported that Heard was sentenced to "18 months probation" and ordered to undergo "psychological treatment ... for harassing" his ex. He was granted court-approved visitation rights to his son, but his visits were extremely restricted, and he was barred from the child's school's property. After the ruling, Heard stated (per E! News) that the system "hates fathers," adding, "I brought him (John) into the world with his mother and, as such, I see him for a day and a half every 14 days. I just don't think that's fair."

Jennifer Hudson

A judge granted David Otunga, professional wrestler and ex-fiancé of singer Jennifer Hudson, temporary custody of their son, while Hudson completed filming The Voice UK in London in late 2017. The temporary order came amid the exes' prolonged custody battle over primary care of David Jr.  

While this decision wasn't exactly surprising, given that Otunga already cared for the child much of the time because of Hudson's busy schedule, it was up in the air because of an order of protection Hudson filed against Otunga after he allegedly displayed "aggressive, threatening and harassing behavior toward" Hudson, according to TMZ reported.

Yet, Otunga was later never charged with domestic violence following a police investigation, and subsequently accused Hudson of attempting to defame him in an effort to improve her case in the ongoing custody struggle. Hudson continues her attempt to win back custody in the lengthy case. Otunga, fighting from the other side of the courtroom, has now called Hudson's sister, Julia Hudson, to answer questions for the court. While no permanent decisions have been made, as of this writing, Hudson remains without primary custody of her son until the court proceedings are complete.