Kelly Rutherford has refused to return her children to Monaco.

The 'Gossip Girl' star is locked in a bitter custody battle with her ex-husband DANIEL GIERSCH over their two children - son, Hermes, eight, and daughter, Helena, six - and has chosen to defy a court order and keep her children in the United States.

In a statement, she told PEOPLE magazine: ''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.

''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.

''No state in this country is currently protecting my children. It also means that no state in this country currently requires me to send the children away. Hence, I have decided that I cannot lawfully send my children away from the United States to live in a foreign country.''

The 46-year-old star insists her ex-husband will be able to travel to the United States to see his children as she had done in the past.

She added: ''I hope that this decision will end this painful litigation, and that my children will be allowed to live in peace in their own country.

''Like all German citizens, my ex-husband can presumably travel to the United States on his German passport and exercise his parental rights in this country, just as I have done for the past three years in France and Monaco on my U.S. passport.

''I pray that officials in this country and in Monaco will agree that three years in exile is a very long time in a child's life, and that my children have a right to remain, once and for all, in the United States.''