Along with many other topics, immigration reform has become one of the top things that President Obama has decided to handle before the end of his second term. But while these new reforms will change how immigrants gain access to the United States, they may also have a major impact on certain aspects of family law as well.
For decades now, immigrant families here in Illinois and across the country have been torn apart by instances of deportation and vicious child custody battles all because one or both parents are not considered to be legal citizens. Often times, tough legal situations arise not because of what type of parent the immigrant is, but because of the negative stigma associated with undocumented immigrants.
Such is the case for one undocumented immigrant who finally regained custody of her 4-year-old daughter after a drawn out custody battle with the daughter’s grandparents finally ended this month. It’s a battle that’s been weighing heavily on the 20-year-old mother’s mind since she lost custody of her daughter in 2011; a chance court decision that her lawyers now say should have never been made.
When the 4-year-old girl was born in 2009, her mother was just 17 at the time and living with the biological father and his parents who had residency in the United States. After an argument in 2011, the mother moved out, taking her daughter with her. This is when the grandparents filed for emergency custody.
After a trial, child custody was granted to the grandparents after a judge implied in his ruling that because the mother did not have legal status in the country she was somehow unfit to be a parent. Drawing the attention of one Minnesota law firm, the mother’s case was quickly picked up and brought to the Court of Appeals where a judge finally agreed that the legal status of the mother had no bearing on her fitness as a parent.
Though the mother in this case was awarded custody of her child, similar cases have not ended so happily. Child custody cases like this can often times be complicated when immigration status is involved. That’s why speaking with an attorney is so important; sometimes it can make all the difference in a court’s decision in the end.
Source: The Start Tribune, “Immigration status not a factor in custody battle, Minnesota court says,” Abby Simons, April 8, 2013