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CHILD CUSTODY A QUESTION IN DEPORTATIONS

Parents in Washington often face disagreements over child custody as they go through a divorce. Questions surrounding the living situation of a child often lead to a court being asked to make a determination. In those situations, child custody is typically awarded to the primary caregiver of a child.

In some child custody cases circumstances exist that make the custody question more difficult to resolve. For instance, if one of the parents is deported, custody may be awarded to a citizen parent or when that parent is also unavailable or unable, by making other arrangements. In those matters, it is often difficult for the deported parent to regain primary custody of the child.

In a recent North Carolina case, a man was deported to Mexico after being found to be an illegal alien. At the time of the deportation, he was the primary caregiver for his three children. His wife, a natural born citizen, had been diagnosed with a mental illness. But due to his deportation, sole custody was awarded to the children's mother. Unfortunately, shortly thereafter the children were placed in the foster care system.

The father was not even able to say goodbye to his children or to arrange for their care prior to his removal from the country. Officials familiar with the deportation program report that this experience is common with parents who are forced to leave the country. Sometimes, authorities suggest, the deported parent does not even know the location of children who have been tragically caught in the crossfire.

In many Washington cases, as in this matter, the non-custodial parent wishes to be reunited with the children. Efforts through the courts can be challenging as many courts have found that the residence outside of the country precludes a parent from obtaining primary child custody. However, as with the father deported to Mexico, many continue to fight to be reunited with their children and to seek a resolution that keeps families together in the best interests of the children involved.

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