Divorce is an incredibly difficult situation. Adding in child custody issues makes the situation even more complicated. Regardless of whether you are here legally or illegally, if you are an immigrant in the United States, you may fear that your immigration status will affect your child custody rights. You may worry that a United States citizen will receive priority in child custody decisions. Fortunately, immigration status and child custody agreements are not as closely related as you may believe.
Our team of immigration and family law attorneys has the experience necessary to handle child custody cases with skill and ease. We represent individuals of all immigration statuses, ensuring their needs are met, and their rights are upheld when forming child custody agreements. To learn more about how we can help, consider contacting our Seattle office today at (206) 309-9645.
How Does Immigration Status Impact Child Custody?
Child custody is decided using the laws of each state. Washington state has different laws regarding child custody from other states. The laws can be found in Chapter 26.27 of the Revised Code of Washington. Above all else, child custody decisions are made based on the best interest of the child. According to RCW 26.09.002, the best interests of a child are served when the parenting arrangement maintains the child’s physical care, emotional growth, and health and stability.
Washington courts prioritize the child’s well-being and welfare when making custody decisions, which can be assessed using several factors, including:
- The parents’ contribution to the financial support of the child
- Any history of substance abuse or criminal activity
- How close the parents live to the child’s school and community
- The ability of each parent to cooperate in sharing time with the child
With this in mind, it is natural to wonder how immigration status and child custody work together in family law matters. The law does not explicitly mention immigration status. This means that immigration status is not an explicit consideration when determining child custody matters, even if the case where both or either parent is an undocumented immigrant fighting for custody. While immigration status is not mentioned in the law, however, it still may impact child custody decisions indirectly. As such, a large part of our practice at ZafiroLaw is rooted in upholding the rights of immigrant parents as they negotiate child custody agreements.
How Is Custody Related to Immigration Status?
Washington courts have made it clear that parents have the right to the custody and care of their children, regardless of immigration status. For this reason, judges must take care to avoid bias based on immigration status influencing their decision-making. Nevertheless, immigration status may still impact custody decisions due to practical concerns related to the child’s best interests.
The immigration status of a parent may affect their ability to provide for the health, emotional stability, education, and physical safety of the child. For example, immigration status may impact where the child resides and the stability of their relationships. It is possible that a primary custodial parent may be out of the country and barred from entry due to immigration issues.
In these situations, a court may decide that the parent is unable to provide for the stability of the child and may not be able to access services for the child to return to their home.
Some of the following questions may be used by Washington courts to decide custody related to immigration status:
- Is a parent at risk of deportation, and what options are available to them to prevent deportation?
- What avenues are available to the parent to obtain legal immigration status?
- Will a parent who is currently located outside of the United States be admissible into the country?
- In what ways does the parent’s immigration status affect their employment opportunities?
Immigration status and child custody matters are complicated, primarily due to the close interaction between immigration law and family law. For parents concerned that their immigration status will impact their custody decisions, seeking legal assistance may provide the necessary peace of mind by ensuring that your rights are upheld during the process.
How Can Hiring an Attorney Experienced in Both Immigration and Family Law Can Help Your Situation?
Hiring an attorney experienced in both immigration and family law may greatly influence your situation. Generally, lawyers focus on one area of law and handle legal matters related to that practice area. Immigration lawyers focus on applying for and securing visas or citizenship for their clients, while family lawyers oversee divorce and custody matters, for example.
Non-citizens who are separating from their spouses face very unique challenges. They may be in the process of applying for a Green Card or beginning to sort out their documents to obtain legal immigration status in the United States. Experiencing a divorce or separation during this time can be overwhelming and leave a person wondering if they will lose custody of their child due to their status as an immigrant in the United States.
Seeking legal assistance from an attorney who is experienced in both immigration and family law can ensure that all matters are handled carefully, according to national immigration law and state family law. They offer a breadth of experience and knowledge that can help avoid the common pitfalls individuals fall into while seeking custody of their children and filing immigration paperwork. These attorneys are often better able to present you with several options to reach your goals, saving you from seeking help from multiple sources to secure both legal immigration status and child custody.
Contact ZafiroLaw Today
Our clients range from Green Card holders to individuals still seeking legal status in the United States. Regardless of immigration status, we are confident in our ability to negotiate the ideal child custody agreement for you and your family. If you are an immigrant in the United States who is currently experiencing a divorce and child custody disputes, our team of immigration and family law attorneys are here to help. Consider scheduling a consultation with us today at (206) 309-9645 to get started.