The former Gossip Girl star has spent the past three years flying back and forth between New York and Monaco to see her two children, Helena, six, and Hermes, eight, after a California judge allowed her ex, Daniel Giersch, to take them to temporarily live with him in France in 2012, when his U.S. visa was revoked.

Rutherford has been protesting the ruling ever since, and she scored a small victory last month (Jun15) after a judge in Monaco ruled the kids - who were born in California - should spend the summer with their mother in the U.S., allowing them to reunite in New York last week (03Jul15).

She returned to a Los Angeles court on Thursday for a hearing to determine who has jurisdiction over the case, and fought back tears as she revealed how she struggled to scrape together the cash to buy plane tickets to visit her children after filing for bankruptcy in 2013.

She told the court, "In the beginning, it was every three weeks. Then it was when I could afford (tickets) or borrow money to go see them."

Rutherford is appealing to Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mark Juhas to declare she still has a "significant connection" to California in order to maintain jurisdiction over the case, reports the New York Daily News.

The actress argued she still has an apartment in California and only relocated to America's East Coast to make it easier and cheaper for her to fly to France for her custody visits.

She stated, "If I want to see the children, it's easier to be in New York. It takes six hours off each trip (overseas), and it costs a lot less money, which has been an issue. It saves 12 hours traveling for me and the children if I stay in New York.

"I'd love to be working and have my kids and have a normal life (in California). (But) I've been forced to travel to a foreign country and spend less time in California, obviously."

Giersch, who split from his ex in 2008, testified via teleconference from Europe after Rutherford shared her side of the story, and insisted he believed she considers New York her home.

The judge has yet to issue a ruling over jurisdiction.