California Child Custody Case is A Complex Blend of Family and Immigration Law

Up the coast from Orange County a child custody case with tragic overtones promises to be especially complex. According to an account in the San Francisco Chronicle, Allison Benavides, age 7, is caught between a father with a dubious past who is now living in the family’s native El Salvador and relatives who want to keep her here in the United States. All of this comes in the wake of the recent death of the little girl’s mother and three-year-old sister.

As the Chronicle reports, Benavides’ mother died in a fire in Oakland last December. At the time her father was “in federal immigration custody” awaiting deportation. He is now back in El Salvador, but attempts to reunite him with his daughter are complicated. This is not an ordinary California fathers’ rights case of the type that we often see here in Orange County.

At the time of the mother’s death Allison’s father had not been a part of the family’s life for some time. The Chronicle reports that in 2008 he “pleaded no contest to misdemeanor battery” on a charge of punching the mother in the face. “He served a few days in jail, attended weekly sessions of domestic violence counseling for a year, and was ordered to stay away from the family – a ban that was later lifted,” the paper reports.

During that period Allison was living with her maternal grandfather in El Salvador. She crossed into the US illegally last year to rejoin her mother in Oakland. The grandfather is now willing to take custody of her, but so are several other relatives here in the United States. The position of Allison’s father, both whether he actually wants custody of her and how his previous domestic violence conviction may affect a family law court’s custody ruling, remain unclear. On top of all this, of course, is the fact that Allison is an illegal immigrant here in the United States.

Sorting out complex California family law issues such as these is exactly the kind of conundrum that an Orange County fathers rights and child custody attorney is well-placed to assist with. The law requires courts to act in the best interests of the child when deciding Orange County and other California child custody cases. An Orange County divorce and family law lawyer’s job is to help clarify where, exactly, those interests lie.

San Francisco Chronicle: Oakland: 2-nation custody dispute after fatal fire