It is not often in Texas, or anywhere else in the country for that matter, that a child custody case comes up that touches on more than one major concept of child custody law, but such a situation was recently decided in Minnesota -- involving both grandparents' rights and the rights of parents who are not in the country legally.
The case involved a young woman who is in the United States without any documentation. She and her boyfriend, who is a U.S. citizen, had a baby together and moved in with the man's parents -- his mother, a U.S. citizen, and his father, a legal resident. At the time of the baby's birth, the mother was 17 and the father was 15.
About two years later, the baby's mother got into a fight with her daughter's grandmother and moved out. As a result, the girl's paternal grandparents filed a motion seeking emergency sole legal custody of the now 2-year-old child. A judge granted their request, saying it was best because the mother was not here legally; the girl's father did not petition for custody at all.
The girl's mother fought for custody and a state appeals court recently ruled in her favor, saying that the woman's fitness as a parent is not affected by her residential status. The grandparents have yet to decide if they will appeal the latest ruling to the Minnesota Supreme Court. It would seem unlikely that a ruling in favor of the mother would be reversed at a higher level; however, it will be up to the parties involved to determine if continuing the custody battle would be in the best interests of the child.
Source: Star Tribune, "Immigration status not a factor in custody battle, Minnesota court says," Abby Simons, April 8, 2013