Does My Immigration Status Matter in Child Support Case?
A parent is obligated to financially support his or her child. Whether the parents of a child are married or not, they must support the child.
Therefore, your immigration status does not bar (stop) the collection of child support.
Undocumented Parent (Status)
If the parents of a child are separated, the parent with whom the child lives can pursue child support. Even if she is undocumented, she may ask a judge to order child support. So, the status of a parent as ‘undocumented’ does not affect his financial obligation. Neither does it stop a parent from receiving support.
A court must treat the case of the undocumented parents in the same as documented parents.
The custodial parent can get help from the Attorney General’s office or retain his or her own private attorney.
Check your local child support office for assistance.
Will I Be Deported for Not Paying Child Support?
Once there is a court-ordered child support (that is, the Judge signed the Final Order with amount to pay), then pay it.
If you fail to pay, then you are in ‘contempt’ of the Order. One of the consequences of not paying child support is jail sentence. A parent, whether documented or undocumented, can be jailed for up to 6 months for failure to pay child support. The state of Texas will not pay child support for you. Rather, your obligated amount has an interest, generally at 6 percent.
Therefore, yes, a failure to pay child support can affect your immigration status. When it is time to apply for adjustment of status, a record of incarceration can have a negative bearing on your application/petition.
I Do Not Have a Job and Cannot Pay Child Support
If you are not able to pay child support or you are moving to another country, do not evade child support. Pay it.
You can make your payments online or via checks.
However, if your income has decreased or you have lost your job, talk to a child support officer or your attorney about filing a modification. You can ask for a decrease in child support.
It is understandable that, due to your status, your income may fluctuate (vary/change), if it has changed significantly, file a petition to modify child support.
The Court will not file it for you.
Also, parents sometimes make the mistakes of reaching informal agreements outside of court. That is incorrect. Only a Judge can modify the previous child support order. Otherwise, you may be subjected to an enforcement action.
Keep in mind that the purpose of child support is to provide for a child. One parent may not be able to supply for the needs such as housing, clothing, food, educational expenses (daycare), and more. Taking care of children can be expensive; therefore, it is in the interest of the state that children are properly cared for.
Child Custody and Immigration
For example, there is a 2017 case of Maria Turrubiartes v. Jose Pablo Olvera (No. 01-16-00322-CV).
Your immigration status affects other parts of your life – income, transportation, education, and more.
In this case, the Judge in its discretion overrule the presumption that both parents should be joint managing conservators. Rather, the Judge awarded sole custody to Father. Why? Because Mom had been driving for approximately nine years without a driver’s license, no stable job, and no place of her own to live. Also, she refused to tell the Father where the children were living and staying. You can read the case here.
It is important to talk to your attorney about your legal status, income, and also any past haps that may affect your case.
In Texas, the Court presumes that both parents should have joint custody; however, the Court will award sole custody to a parent if it is in the best interest of the child.
In summary, a parent’s status as undocumented does not mean they automatically lose custody of their child. But, other factors such as living arrangements, expenses, income, stability matter.
Whether you are looking to file for an Adjustment of Status, child custody, or child support, talk to an attorney. We are here to assist you. You do not have to be afraid of deportation and continue to struggle to provide for your child. It is the duty of a parent to support a child.