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Do I Need an Immigration Lawyer or Family Solicitor?

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A case study on why you may need immigration and family law advice

When you have a family problem sometimes it is hard to know if you need to speak to a Family Law Solicitor or an Immigration Solicitor first.

You could go to separate law firms for family law advice and immigration help but they may not understand how your family law problems affect your visa and immigration status and vice versa.

At OTS Solicitors our teams specialise in immigration law and UK family law so you get the combined legal expertise you need. In this article, we explain why that is important.

Online and London Family Lawyers and Immigration Solicitors  

For family law or immigration law legal advice call the experts at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form.

Our lawyers speak Arabic, Armenian, Farsi, French/Mauritian Creole, Spanish, Tamil Tagalog/Ilonggo, Urdu/Punjabi

Why you need Immigration and Family Law Solicitors to work together

If you are in the UK and you or your husband, wife, civil partner, or unmarried partner are on a visa or subject to UK immigration control you need joined-up family law and immigration legal advice. If you don’t get that advice, it could make your family law issue or immigration status more complicated to resolve.

It is easiest to give you an example of what we mean.

Take the case of Angela

Angela is a US citizen in the UK on a Spouse Visa sponsored by her husband. He is a British citizen who was working in the US as a banker. He transferred back to the UK when offered a promotion. Angela joined him in the UK on her Spouse Visa and recently gave birth to a child in London. The birth of her baby made Angela reassess her life and what is important. She realises that she does not want her child to grow up in the atmosphere of oppression, violence, and control that pervades the family home.

Angela goes to her local Family Law Solicitors. They work out that Angela can start no-fault divorce proceedings in London because she is habitually resident in the UK and her husband is a British citizen.

The Family Lawyer does not ask Angela about her immigration status and Angela does not say anything as she doesn’t realise how significant it is and why she is vulnerable.

It is just assumed by Angela that she can stay in London as she has got time left on her Spouse Visa and that she can then apply to settle in the UK or, if she chooses, she can go back to the US with her baby.

It isn’t that simple.

Angela’s immigration status issues

When you are in the UK on a Spouse Visa your entry clearance is based on your relationship. If your relationship ends then so does your visa.

Angela is under a duty to let the Home Office know that her marriage is over. That information will result in the Home Office curtailing her visa so she no longer has the time left on the Spouse Visa that she thought.

Angela has the option of leaving the UK – but she cannot take her baby to the US without her husband's agreement or an order from the English family court. Her husband is unlikely to agree to Angela taking the baby as he can use the baby as a means to control Angela and force her to stay with him.

 Angela’s family law issues

Angela may be able to get a no-fault divorce in England but, if the US court has jurisdiction as well, would she be better off starting divorce proceedings in the US to secure her divorce financial settlement? That is debatable as in the US family law is state based so it depends on which US state has jurisdiction.

The question needs to be asked though so Angela has the information on where it is best to start divorce proceedings.

Angela has assumed that as she is a US citizen and a mother, she can decide whether to take her baby back to the US or not. She thought that if she got back to the US, she and her baby would be safe.

Family law is a bit more complicated than that. As the baby is habitually resident in the UK, the English court has jurisdiction. Angela needs her husband's agreement or a relocation order to take her baby to the US. Understandably, leaving without the baby is not an option.

It isn’t just a slap on the wrist if Angela goes to the US with her baby without her husband's agreement or a court order. Her husband could accuse her of child abduction and obtain a return order. Angela could try and fight the return order because of the domestic abuse but it would be a hard fight. With a return order, her husband would have the upper hand as the baby would have to come back to England and the English court would then decide if the baby should live with Angela or her husband under a child arrangement order or if the baby can relocate to the US with Angela under a relocation order.

When coming back to England to fight for custody of the baby Angela would have immigration issues as she could not re-enter on a Spouse Visa. Angela could fight for custody from the US but her baby would be in the UK under the return order unless Immigration Solicitors come up with a solution.

The joined-up approach to family and immigration law problems  

At OTS Solicitors we have specialist family law and individual immigration teams but all our lawyers know enough about family law and immigration law to know when someone like Angela needs joined-up legal advice.

Here is what our teams would have suggested:

  1. Let the Home Office know about the separation – if Angela doesn’t then she risks the Home Office finding out and blemishing her good immigration record
  2. Think about applying for an injunction – a non-molestation order injunction would protect Angela from the domestic abuse she has experienced. Domestic abuse includes emotional and psychological abuse and coercive control. An ouster injunction order would allow Angela and the baby to stay at the London family home until a divorce financial settlement is sorted out
  3. Think about applying to settle in the UK now by applying for indefinite leave to remain using the domestic violence concession – if a Spouse Visa holder leaves their marriage because of domestic violence they do not have to have lived in the UK for 5 years before applying for indefinite leave to remain
  4. If Angela cannot agree on the residence and contact arrangements for the baby she will need a child arrangement order. The order could say the baby lives with Angela and has contact with the father. That type of child arrangement order gives Angela the ability to take the baby abroad on holiday each year for up to 4 weeks. If Angela wants to leave England permanently with her baby, she would need a relocation order before jumping on a plane
  5. If Angela does not want to stay in the UK then she will need to regularise her immigration status until she secures a relocation order so she can take her baby back with her to the US. Angela will need legal advice about spousal maintenance and child support whilst she is waiting in the UK to obtain her relocation order
  6. Decide whether to start divorce proceedings in London or the US – London is probably better for Angela but it is best to check
  7. Citizenship as longer term, if Angela decides to stay in England, she may want to apply for British citizenship

This approach to Angela’s family law and immigration problems achieves solutions for Angela whether she decides that she wants to stay in London with her baby and settle in the UK or return to the US with her child. Getting incomplete family or immigration legal advice could have jeopardised Angela’s options and added to the stress of exiting an unhappy and abusive marriage.

How OTS Solicitors can help with your family or immigration issues

Our friendly and approachable Family Law Solicitors and Immigration Lawyers make sure that you get the comprehensive advice you need. We cover all the angles so you know that you are getting the specialist help you need to work through your family law and immigration issues.

Online and London Family Lawyers and Immigration Solicitors  

For family law or immigration law legal advice call the expert lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form.

Our lawyers speak Arabic, Armenian, Farsi, French/Mauritian Creole, Spanish, Tamil Tagalog/Ilonggo, Urdu/Punjabi

Related Posts

Spouse Visas, Domestic Violence and Applying to Settle in the UK if Your Relationship Ends

Evidence Needed to Apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain Using the Domestic Violence Concession

Applying for an Injunction

Child Custody After Divorce UK

Spouse Visas and Divorce UK

Islamic Marriages and Divorce in the UK

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