Illinois Family Law and Immigration: How does immigration status affect family law cases?

Understanding the Interplay Between Illinois Family Law and Immigration Status

When it comes to family law cases in Illinois, immigration status can have profound implications. The intersection of family law and immigration law is intricate, often affecting the outcomes of divorce, custody, and support proceedings. This article explores how immigration status can influence family law cases in Illinois, providing insights into common scenarios and legal nuances.

Immigration Status and Marriage

In Illinois, marriage does not automatically change an individual's immigration status. However, a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident can sponsor a foreign spouse for a family-based immigrant visa. If the marriage ends in divorce before the foreign spouse adjusts status to a permanent resident, this can jeopardize their ability to remain in the United States. Conversely, if an immigrant is accused of entering into marriage solely for immigration benefits (a 'sham' marriage), this may not only affect their residency status but could also lead to criminal charges.

Custody Cases and Immigration Concerns

Child custody disputes may become more complex when one parent's immigration status is uncertain. Courts generally prioritize the child's best interests, but if one parent faces deportation or lacks legal status, it could impact custody decisions. For example, in Rodriguez v. Rodriguez, an Illinois court had to consider a mother's undocumented status when determining custody arrangements. While her status alone was not disqualifying, it was a factor in evaluating the stability she could provide for the child.

Support and Maintenance Issues

Immigration status can also affect spousal support and maintenance. In cases where an undocumented spouse may be ineligible to work legally in the U.S., courts might consider this when determining alimony payments. However, if that spouse is under threat of deportation, it complicates long-term financial arrangements.

Protection Orders and Immigration Relief

Survivors of domestic violence who are immigrants have protection under Illinois law and may be eligible for immigration relief through U-visas or under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). These forms of relief allow victims to seek protection orders without fear of deportation and may ultimately lead to lawful permanent residency.


In family law cases within Illinois, an individual's immigration status is a significant factor that can influence the proceedings' outcome. Lawyers representing clients in these situations must navigate both family and immigration laws to protect their clients' rights effectively. It is crucial for those facing family law issues while grappling with immigration concerns to seek legal counsel knowledgeable in both areas to ensure their interests are fully represented.