The divorced mother of two, who says she's living at a friend's apartment out of necessity, said in an exclusive sit-down with E! News that she has "spent every penny. Every penny from Gossip Girl, my pension, my stocks has been spent fighting for my children."
Rutherford's two kids, 6-year-old son Hermes and 3-year-old daughter Helena, live in Monaco with their father, German businessman Daniel Giersch—and their mom, who has joint legal custody, has been exhausting her options to try and get them relocated back to the U.S. A judge ruled last August that they should live primarily with their dad and Giersch no longer has a visa allowing him to reside in the States.
Rutherford compared going to visit her kids in Europe and then coming home without them to "being in a park full of laughing happy children, and then the next day you walk by the park and it's empty."
She was pregnant with Helena when she and Giersch started divorce proceedings. "I said, 'I don't want any money, I don't want anything, let's figure out a great plan for the kids,'" she recalled. "The relationship was obviously not working."
"And four years later," Rutherford said, "this is where I am."
Giersch's attorney, meanwhile, told E! News that his client would continue to not comment on the case, in order to protect his children's privacy. He said last summer, however, that Giersch was "focused on co-parenting."
Asked how much she has spent on the ongoing custody battle, she replied with a question: "How do you end up in court pregnant, getting ready to get divorced?"
"I went in with very high hopes, I was madly in love," Rutherford said wistfully. "I'm thankful to him for our beautiful children, but I think I didn't realize you could litigate against someone like this."
The really "hurtful part" of the whole thing, she said, is seeing the effect it has on their kids.
"Having to peel my son off my body, screaming, 'Mama, save me!' when I had to give him to his father—not because he doesn't love his dad, but because he's too young and it was like a forced thing," Rutherford said.
Watch the clip for more of our exclusive interview with Kelly—and hear what a friend and fellow mother is doing to help bring Kelly's kids to the U.S.
And for more exclusive celebrity interviews, tune into E! News weekdays at 7 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.