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Child custody concerns loom large for immigrants

A number of undocumented immigrant families, fearing the impact of intensified deportation policies, have begun seeking advice to make custody plans for their citizen children. Across the Minnesota and the United States, law students and other volunteers have been assisting immigrants with creating paperwork to designate custody arrangements for their children in case of deportation.

These parents want to ensure that their children are cared for by family and friends rather than placed into state custody. For citizen children of undocumented parents, the United States is often the only country they have ever known. As citizens, they have a full right to remain even if their parents are deported.

Some of the legal workers involved in the project have emphasized that barriers to access to the legal system sometimes prevents undocumented people from preparing the necessary paperwork. People may be afraid of exposing their immigration status. Others may be isolated from family or friends, who remain mostly in their home country.

Others are unaware that these types of decisions and papers regarding custody decisions are an option in the U.S. legal system. Indeed, many families, whether citizens or non-citizens, documented or undocumented, are unaware of the avenues for determining alternate custody for their children in urgent situations.

Parents and families may unexpectedly deal with child custody issues not only under threat of deportation, but also in cases of tragic deaths, the incarceration of a parent or the more common framework of divorce or separation. A family lawyer can help parents and families to create custody paperwork or modify child custody arrangements. Family law attorneys can craft custody agreements that meet the requirements of state law as well as serving the best interests of the child.

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