Can Immigration Status Affect Child Custody?

Facing a child custody battle can be difficult enough without having to worry about your immigration status. This is a very real concern for many parents in Nevada, however, especially when one parent is an undocumented immigrant. Statistics indicate that about 5.1 million minor children in the United States have at least one parent who is an unauthorized immigrant. While immigration consequences – such as deportation – are always a concern for undocumented parents, the good news is that family courts in Nevada generally will not use immigration status as a justification to terminate custody rights or award full custody to another parent because they are a U.S. citizen.

If one parent is a citizen and the other is an immigrant legally in the United States, the differing statuses should typically not play a role in a child custody case. Even if one parent is undocumented, they still have equal rights in a custody determination, and the family court typically will not notify Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of his or her undocumented status. However, ICE can always discover their status in another manner and initiate deportation proceedings. A bitter ex-spouse may even be the one to report the unauthorized presence in the U.S. In such situations, the child will likely remain in the United States with the authorized parent.

Considering the Best Interests of the Child

Nevada law requires a court to determine custody rights based on what the judge considers will be in the best interests of the child. There are many factors the court will examine when making this determination, including:

● Physical and emotional needs of the child, including any special needs and the parents’ respective ability to provide for those needs.
● Health and safety of the child, including whether one parent has a history of violence or domestic abuse.
● Ability to co-parent, provide a stable household for the child, and communicate with the other parent. Also, courts believe parents should encourage a healthy relationship with the other parent.
● Each parent’s proximity to the child’s community, school, and other family members.
● Any other factor deemed relevant.

The preference in Nevada is for a court to award joint custody. If the court believes that joint custody is in the best interests of a child, a parent’s immigration status should not matter. Undocumented immigrants can also receive child support when deemed appropriate by the court. However, know that there is always the possibility of losing the ability to see your child if ICE initiates removal proceedings down the line.

Contact a Las Vegas Family Law Attorney for More Information

At Acherman Law in Las Vegas, our attorneys know that custody cases are always stressful, even if both parents are U.S. citizens. We understand the added concern of non-citizens, and we work to counsel our clients on these matters and fight for the custody rights you deserve. Child custody and child support cases can be complicated, and you need the right attorney on your side. Please call our child custody lawyers at 702-381-5615 or contact us online for help right away.