Trial Court Modifies Child Custody Because of Custodial Parent's Undocumented Status, and Is Reversed by Highest State Court on Appeal

Mother and Father both enter the US illegally and remain in Arkansas. Mother remains undocumented for years. Father secures legal status on a temporary but renewing basis. The government pursues increased child support from Father for their Daughter. And then Father looks to get custody of Daughter. To modify custody, Arkansas requires a material change of circumstances since entry of the previous child custody order. At trial, the family court modifies child custody and awards custody of Daughter to Father. It appears that the trial judge bases his ruling upon his personal political and policy views, rather than Arkansas child custody law. On appeal, Arkansas' highest court reverses and restores custody of Daughter to Mother. It turns out that the circumstances Father complains of, Mother's undocumented status and lack of a valid driver's license, are exactly the same as they were at the time of Mother's and Father's divorce. They were apparently acceptable to Father then, and the marital settlement agreement was approved by the family court and adopted in its final judgment. Further, the evidence at trial showed that Father had had little or no contact with Daughter for about two years. Read more in this Arkansas Times piece: Illegal Immigrant.

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