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Are immigration policies creating new child custody concerns?

Legal custody issues often arise in the context of a divorce, but the changing legal landscape of immigration laws has produced a new concern.

In a recent example, an undocumented immigrant went to court to obtain legal custody of the three children he had with his wife, a U.S. citizen. When he arrived at the courthouse, however, immigration agents arrested him.

Notably, the man knew that he was putting himself at risk by going to court. However, he felt seeking legal custody was necessary to protect his children’s safety. The man had separated but not divorced his wife, and his wife’s current live-in boyfriend has a history of both criminal activity and violence, including a personal protection order. The man hoped gaining legal custody would provide his children with a more stable and safe home environment. Besides, he claims he had continued to financially support his wife and children, despite living apart from them.

According to one commentator, it’s not unprecedented for immigration officials to arrest an undocumented immigrant when he or she shows up for an unrelated court case. However, family court is a different matter. Here, the man has dependents, and his deportation, if it goes through, would likely create a severe hardship for his children.

As a law firm that has helped many clients to navigate difficult child custody issues, we understand that emotions can run high. In today’s example, the man never had an opportunity to present his case to the family court. If he had consulted with an attorney before his appearance, there may have been other options, such as requesting a waiver. There may still be legal options for the man to explore.

Source: Michigan Radio, “Father arrested by immigration agents at Oakland County custody hearing,” Sarah Cwiek, March 30, 2017

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