Disengaging from an abusive relationship can be difficult and often legal issues just intensify the emotional ones. But in many countries, legal protections on paper do not produce real help in practice. Then what?
A Guatemalan mother fleeing an abusive ex-partner went to San Francisco to seek safety for herself and her three children, ages 10, 15, and 17. Because the father was abusive, the children were eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile status. A local community organization began proceedings but they hit a snag when a US family court required that sole custody be granted to the mother. For this to happen, the father in Guatemala City had to be informed in person and agree to give up custody.
Having heard that the father might be in prison, and if not in prison, could be dangerous when drunk, the mother was reluctant to send a family member to serve the notice. Instead, the immigration attorney contacted Justice in Motion to send a professional to carry out this crucial part of the process. A Defender from the Justice in Motion Network in Guatemala City tracked down the father, served the notice, and obtained his signature agreeing to give up custody of the children.
As a result of the Defender’s efficient actions, the mother won sole custody and the children’s petition is now pending before US immigration authorities. Feeling safe and relieved, the children are in school and doing well. Hopefully they will receive their green cards and a shot at the opportunities all children deserve.