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Who determines 'best interest' of children in custody disputes?

On its face, child custody questions in Arkansas might seem simple to answer. The rule that is supposed to guide all decisions by the courts is what is deemed to be in the best interest of the child. However, what constitutes best interests is subject to interpretation and that can create challenges over child custody for parents who may have competing ideas.

In some circumstances state child protection authorities might feel obliged to press for a custody order that runs counter to anything that the parents might want. Family court judges, too, may hold unexpected views. That can leave parents feeling the system is unpredictable at the very least. Worse, it could leave them feeling they've been treated unfairly. Having an experienced legal advocate at your side is how to be confident that your rights and desires are best represented.

In some circumstances, the conflict over child custody may involve players beyond the family court of any given state. This is something that a mother in Texas has experienced firsthand. She has been fighting to regain custody of her son since federal immigration authorities detained him at the age of 14 in 2013.

It was only just this month that a federal judge in Virginia ordered him returned to her. In the intervening years, she has only seen her son once. The fact that he was moved to detention facilities in five different states only made her efforts to see him that much harder.

Apparently because the mother came from Guatemala and because the boy had run away from home and has a history that includes a criminal record and involvement with a drug cartel, immigration officials kept him in custody. That was done even though an immigration judge had ruled years ago that the boy was not subject to possible deportation. Officials said they were worried about his mother's parenting abilities.

It might have been in the federal government's authority to make such a call, but the judge ruled that the Office of Refugee Resettlement acted subjectively and improperly because it had denied the mother due process. She never even got an administrative hearing of her claim that she could fulfill the best interest needs of her son.

Today, they are reported to be reunited and happy.

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