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Immigration status in custody battles may not be a factor

Child custody matters are inherently complicated. Florida family court judges must make such decisions by viewing each situation through the lens of "the child's best interest" factors; a set of provisions that considers the child's environment, contact with family members and the effects a change would have on the child, to name a few.

Divorcing and separated parents often see stark differences in whether a person is qualified to be a parent under these factors, and often try to use vices and imperfections as ammunition to get an upper hand in custody proceedings.

In one case from Minnesota, the Court of Appeals recently held that an undocumented immigrant Jessica Luna, may retain custody of her daughter after her paternal grandparents filed a motion for emergency sole legal custody of the child. The motion stems from a fight Luna had with the paternal father's mother, Maria Ramirez. The trial court previously ruled that Ramirez and her husband were best suited to care for the child, in part, because Luna was not legally in the United States. However, the appeals court found that there were no extraordinary circumstances suggesting that the grandparents were better suited (compared to Luna) to care for the child.

The case raises interesting questions about whether a parent's immigration status would be an important factor in determining custody and parenting time. Indeed, each child custody matter in Florida is fact specific, and family courts deal with diverse problems involving suspected illegal immigrants. Nevertheless, it is interesting to know that courts will take a person's immigration status and consider it in the right context.

Source:, Immigration status not a factor in custody battle, Minnesota court says, April 8, 2013

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