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Survivors of domestic violence must frequently navigate multiple legal processes, as well as the various administrative systems that provide crucial supports and resources. For women with precarious immigration status, navigation is made all the more challenging not only because immigration and/or refugee law processes are added to the array of legal domains to be navigated, but because their access to supports and resources is both restrictive and in flux, shifting along with the changes in their immigration status.
Drawing from interviews with experienced lawyers and case law searches, I explore many of the intersections between family law and immigration law in cases of domestic violence. The picture that emerges is one of profound cross-domain influences: the mere existence of a
family law legal proceeding, the evidence adduced, the findings made, and the outcome will each bear on decisions taken in the immigration realm, including whether a survivor will be removed from Canada, with or without her children. Similarly, a survivor’s precarious immigration status impacts family law decision-making in a multiplicity of ways, including in assessing allegations of “family violence” and in contextualizing the challenges of mothering in the context of deportability, both of which have enormous consequence for the safety and well-being of survivors and their children.
As the lawyers interviewed made abundantly clear, the complex interplay of these domains and the grave harms that can materialize when there is lack of coordination calls out not only for experienced legal counsel in each domain, but intense collaboration and cooperation between counsel. The reality on-the-ground however is that the failure of many system actors to appreciate how actions taken in one domain will reverberate materially in another and the inadequacy of funding for representation in each of family law and immigration law and virtually no funding and no structure to support collaboration, significantly impair survivors’ access to justice.
Mosher, Janet, "Domestic Violence, Precarious Immigration Status, and the Complex Interplay of Family Law and Immigration Law" (2023). Articles & Book Chapters. 3039.