Immigration Law and Child Custody

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The basis of many aspects of Pennsylvania family law is that families should be together. This is the basis of our child custody statutes, which have been interpreted by the courts with an increasing preference on shared custody to build strong relationships between children and both of their parents, as well as our paternity laws, which create a presumption of paternity from a marriage, and prevent paternity from being challenged by a man who acted as a parent and later found out that the child wasn’t theirs.

An area where this presumption sometimes runs into problems is when child custody intermingles with immigration law. As the world gets wider, and people from different countries fall in love and have babies, the relative immigration statuses of both parents can become a matter at issue, even in family court.

In Pennsylvania, immigration status on its own is not a factor that the courts consider when awarding child custody. However, if immigration status would have an impact on the child, such as the stability of the parent’s household, the country where the parent is living, or the availability of extended family, then the Pennsylvania family court would take that into account.

For example, if a woman entered the United States illegally and entered into a relationship with an American citizen, then had a baby but the relationship ended before marriage, then the potential immigration status of the mother could be an issue for child custody purposes if the mother did not have a stable income, or was already in deportation proceedings. If, however, the mother did make enough money and had a stable home, then immigration status would not be an issue.

In Pennsylvania, the only determination in a child custody case is the best interest of the child. Regardless of status, a fit parent will be able to exercise custody of their child. In the U.S., parenting is considered to be a fundamental right, and each case, regardless of nationality or status, is decided on a case-by-case basis.

If you have any questions regarding the impact of your immigration status or nationality on your family law case, it is important to consult both experienced immigration and family lawyers, who can advise you on