Family Courts and Immigration Status


David B. Thronson is a Professor of Law at the Michigan State University College of Law where he is co-founder of the Immigration Law Clinic. His research and writing seeks to develop frameworks and critical perspectives for analyzing the intersection of family and immigration, with a particular focus on children.

Judge Frank P. Sullivan is a Family Court Judge in Nevada's 8th Judicial District Court where he oversees the Child Abuse and Neglect Court Improvement Project. He previously served in Nevada as a Juvenile Hearing Master, Domestic Violence Commissioner, and a Deputy Attorney General.


Immigration issues can complicate the already difficult decisions that face family courts, and immigration law is a real and substantial element in the lives of many persons properly before family courts for protection and resolution of family issues. Yet there are not established parameters for evaluating the appropriateness and scope of the consideration of immigration issues in family court. This article explores principles and approaches regarding immigration issues in family courts, developing rationales for engaging or not in immigration issues, and providing a foundation for thoughtful consideration of the ways in which immigration law interacts with core family law functions.