Should immigration status be considered in cases of child custody?
In an Arizona case fraught with multiple tragedies, the grandparents of a baby girl have been denied custody of the child because they are undocumented aliens. The case is complex and laden with human misery.
It begins with the daughter of the couple being raped at the age of 15 by a family friend. The daughter kept her pregnancy hidden until secretly giving birth in her parents’ bathroom. Subsequently, her baby girl was (depending upon which version of event you believe) deliberately dropped or accidentally fell from a window ledge to the ground.
The teenager, after pleading guilty to attempted second-degree murder and child abuse, has been sentenced to 5 years in prison, a lifetime of probation, and has forfeited her parental rights forever.
While the Arizona Department of Child Safety at first allowed the grandparents to visit their baby granddaughter, their visitation rights have now been denied. The agency has declared them unfit guardians because they are not legal residents of the United States. The grandparents, who have a daughter of about the same age as their granddaughter, believe it is unjust for them to be denied custody because of their immigration status, particularly because there is no state law forbidding it.
They claim that the state government has already torn their family apart since they are no longer able to visit their daughter in prison. This separation has occurred because they are unable to get the state-issued identification necessary to visit a state penal facility.
Those sympathetic with the grandparents point out that, apart from the rights of the adults in question, the baby continues to be traumatized by being separated from the only home and family she’s ever known.
Laws concerning child custody are complicated and may, at times, seem unjust. It is essential that you have an experienced family law attorney in your corner to guide you as you navigate these choppy waters.
At Cohen Family Law, we have the knowledge and skill to assist you and to ensure the best possible outcome of your custody case. If you need help with child custody or other family issues, please call us for a free consultation at 602-714-8898. We have been helping Arizona families since 1982 and we would be pleased to help yours.