The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers has always stood for strengthening families and protecting the best interests of children and we firmly believe that our mission includes immigrant families, as well. In order to help offer legal assistance to the unaccompanied children of immigrant families in these uncertain times, the Academy is very pleased to have formed a unique partnership with KIND. Comprised of the top 1,650 matrimonial attorneys throughout the nation, the Academy will be offering expert consultations on custody cases and other difficult situations, including providing advice on procedure, court personnel and law.
To better offer some kind of support to so many of these families in uncertain times, the Academy has also moved forward with launching an Unaccompanied Immigrant Children’s Taskforce. The AAML Unaccompanied Immigrant Children’s Taskforce has started working with the team at KIND to best help Academy Fellows directly lend their expertise in difficult Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) cases. SIJS is a form of relief for children who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected by one or both parents, and for whom it is in their best interest to stay in the U.S. SIJS requires three steps: Petitioning the relevant state court for SIJS findings; Filing a SIJS petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS); and Filing a permanent residency application with USCIS during the SIJS case.
Our special Taskforce has already started offering expert consultations to our friends at KIND in regards to these SIJS cases. Overall, the AAML plans to eventually provide KIND with specialized training on wide array of issues, ranging from particular state court practice areas and threshold for appointing a nonparent custodian/guardian to standard of review on appeal and dealing with Guardian ad Litems in certain jurisdictions. Indirect assistance in situations where the parents or caregivers of KIND clients are detained by ICE may also be offered.
It is a true privilege to be able to assist KIND in making a difference in the lives of children who are often all alone and have nowhere else to turn. We strongly encourage everyone to find a way in get involved in these urgent cases and further support the essential work of Kids In Need of Defense.
Madeline Marzano-Lesnevich is President of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.