Client Stories: Family Issues

One of the more concerning trends we have seen in recent weeks is the prevalence of family issues in the consultations we have been conducting. Technology has allowed us to continue working with clients even though we can’t meet in person. Through video chats and phone conferences, we have been able to help people work through various legal issues.

A more significant proportion than usual of these consultations have been for family-related issues: divorces, custody of children, questions of paternity, child support, and other related concerns.

Two cases stand out:

Miguel from Ecuador

Miguel and his wife were married in his home country of Ecuador. After their son was born, the family decided to move to his wife’s home country, the United States. As happens to some young families, the parents realize that married life was not what they thought it would be, and decided to divorce. Unfortunately for Miguel, this means he will have to leave his son, now two years old. When they moved to the United States, the family filed the proper paperwork to get Miguel his legal permanent residency. Now that the marriage has fallen apart, so have his chances of becoming a Legal Permanent Resident and remaining in the United States to be a presence in his son’s life.

This case is complicated, this is a civil divorce that is in process, there is also a pressing immigration question. We are helping Miguel find a divorce attorney who can help him fight for a measure of custody. We are also advising him as he wrestles with his unresolved immigration status.

Gabriella from Mexico

We had been working with Gabriella on becoming a legal permanent resident based on her husband’s US citizenship. When we spoke with her recently, she and her 8-month-old daughter were in Mexico City. The two of them had been kicked out of their home and put on a plane by her husband. She recounted an argument, compounded by the stress from the pandemic, that ended when he had her sign a piece of paper and told her they were divorced. He bought her a plane ticket and sent her back to Mexico.

Gabriella was distraught from his whole experience but glad that her daughter was with her. We were able to assure her that a real divorce is more not so simple as signing a paper. We helped her find an attorney who could walk her through the divorce, help her maintain custody, and win some support from her spouse for their daughter.

The pandemic is adding stress to all our lives

For many of our clients, this means that places where they are already stretched are starting to break. In many cases, especially when family issues are involved, the way forward is not clear. We try to help clients see the relevant issues and advise them on what their options are. When we cannot represent them, we generally don’t take on divorce cases, we always try to help our clients find their next best step.


The Southwest Detroit Immigrant and Refugee Center provides free and low-cost legal services to those who need them most in the Detroit area, with a focus on recent immigrants and refugees.

We were founded in 2014 by Kevin Piecuch, our Executive Director and principal attorney, to help meet the great need for quality legal services in underserved communities. We believe that everyone deserves justice regardless of your country of origin, the color of your skin, or your ability to afford an attorney.

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Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash

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