Special Circumstances: Immigrants, Tribal members, and Military Personnel

Immigration and Family Law

Family law issues can become much more complex when one or both parties is an immigrant.  For legal immigrants, one party’s immigration status could be endangered if they divorce their spouse, especially if their spouse is the citizen sponsoring their immigration.  For undocumented immigrants, problems may arise if you become involved in court cases or other legal proceedings.

If you have concerns about how family law cases may affect a party’s immigration status, you should consult with an immigration lawyer or an immigration advocacy group.  In Washington, the main organization providing free legal services to immigrants in the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.  They are based in Seattle but operate state-wide. See the “Resources” section for contact information.

Tribal Law and Family Law

Unique issues can arise in family law cases where a party or a child is Native American. Most Washington tribes have their own court systems including family court.  In cases involving Native American children, there are state, tribal, and federal laws that come into play including the Indian Child Welfare Act, and potential jurisdictional issues. If you have questions, it is best to consult with an attorney who has experience in tribal law, or talk directly with tribal attorneys in the legal departments of many of the larger Washington tribes.  See the “Resources” section for further contacts.

Military families

Military families may encounter unique legal questions about family law, especially when a spouse or parent is deployed abroad, or gets assigned to a post in a different state. Most military bases have legal advisors at the Judge Advocate General’s office (JAG Corps) that can provide assistance and guidance.  Many bases also have support groups for spouses of servicemen and women, and domestic violence advocates to assist survivors on military bases or in military families.  The JAG office can also assist in making sure that custody and child support orders from state courts are correctly routed for service members.


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