Latina Victim of Abuse Obtains Legal Immigration Status and Child Custody


After the Department of Children and Families (DCF) social worker recovered from the shock of a district court judge denying a restraining order to protect “Victoria” and her three-year-old autistic daughter from an abusive and alcoholic husband, she assured Victoria that there was still hope.

Victoria was not sure anyone could help. She had learned through experience that some judges were prone to believe her abuser, a U.S. citizen, instead of her, an undocumented immigrant. The year before, she had fled to a battered women’s shelter but her husband obtained custody of their child right before Christmas, despite evidence that he let the child wander near a busy street while he was drunk. The family court judge cited Victoria’s undocumented status as the main reason.  Defeated, Victoria returned and endured more violence to protect her child.

The DCF worker called GBLS attorney Mithra Merryman who has extensive experience working with undocumented victims of domestic violence. This time, Victoria didn’t face the court alone and with the help of her GBLS attorney she was awarded sole custody, the child is protected with supervised visits, and Victoria now has legal immigration status to remain in the United States.

Victoria shared her story as the keynote speaker at a September 2011 conference at Suffolk University Law School that provided training on how immigration status, race, and ethnicity impact the Probate and Family court process in Massachusetts.