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Child custody dispute keeps teen in federal custody

What is in the best interest of the child; that is the standard by which family law courts in Arkansas and other states are supposed to make decisions when child custody and visitation disputes are in play.

That's the ideal. However, as those experienced in such matters know, there can be a lot of variation in outcomes from one state to another, and even from county to county in any particular state. If the issue of child custody escalates to the federal level, a whole new situation exists. One's choice of legal counsel needs to consider such factors.

This is something that a woman in Northern Virginia may be confronting first hand. She is going before a federal court in an effort to gain custody of her troubled teenage son. The boy is currently in the hands of federal authorities and has been for the past three years since being picked up by Border Patrol officials at the Texas border.

In those years, the youth has reportedly been shuttled through facilities in five different states. He is currently in California. That's likely complicating his mother's recovery efforts.

Many issues make this rare case more difficult. For one thing, the child ran away from his Texas home when he was 14. Before his mom could retrieve him, border authorities detained him. Officials, citing the boy's alleged admission that he was involved in drugs and gangs, refused to release him to her. They say they are concerned she can't provide the stable environment he needs.

Federal authorities claim this right of control because the woman and her son came to the U.S. from Guatemala, but they have legal immigration status.

The issues the federal court in Virginia is being asked to address are whether the federal authorities have overstepped their authority in denying her custody of her son and whether the mother shouldn't be granted a formal hearing on the question.

This is certainly a case worth watching.

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