Have you, as a parent, experienced abuse at the hands of your adult child who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident?  If so, you might be wondering if there’s a way to seek legal protection and residency in the United States. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) offers protections and a path to residency in the U.S. for you in this circumstance. Read more for key insights and information about your potential eligibility for VAWA as a parent!

Key Challenges: Social Stigma

One of the most significant hurdles you may face in these situations is the social stigma attached to being abused by your child. Society often expects parents to have control and authority over their children, which makes it difficult for you to come forward. Admitting that your child is the abuser can lead to feelings of shame, isolation, denial, guilt, fear, or even betrayal. This may cause it to be increasingly difficult to seek help and protect yourself. However, it’s important to understand that you are not at fault for your child’s actions, children can abuse their parents, and you have a right to protection. 

What is Considered to be Abuse?: Making the Distinction

Abuse would be a pattern of behavior that aims to control, intimidate, or harm you. However, it’s important, and often hard, to differentiate between typical child misbehavior and abusive treatment. If your child’s behavior or actions include any of the following, you may be eligible for VAWA: 

  1. Your child manipulates, or has previously manipulated, your immigration status to have control over your financial resources, such as stealing money, forcing you to work without pay, or accumulating debt in your name.
  2. Your child withholds immigration-related documents or threats of deportation if you don’t do exactly what they want.
  3. Your child deliberately physically, emotionally, or psychologically harms you with an awareness of what they are doing.

If you are not sure if your child’s actions constitute abuse, an experienced immigration attorney can ask you questions about different incidents to make an objective assessment if the child’s actions would be considered abuse. 

Safety in a VAWA Petition  

VAWA was created to protect people facing extreme cruelty who fear speaking out because of their immigration status. Or who fear speaking out due to fear of the abuser finding out they told someone of the abuse and retaliating. There are certain protections built in by VAWA that keep these considerations in mind to make it safe for you to apply for VAWA.

  • Confidentiality: The application and approval process is confidential, which helps to provide safety and privacy from your child. In other words, your child will not be informed of the case at any point. You can provide a safe address on your petition and if you have an attorney, the mail will be sent to your attorney.
  1. Documentation: In your application, you will be required to provide detailed documentation of the type of abuse suffered, evidence of your parent-child relationship, and proof of good, moral character. However, you do not need to submit any affidavits or other evidence from your child that will alert them that you are applying for VAWA. Your child does not need to submit any forms or sign any documents. 

Due to the confidentiality and no need for signatures or affidavits from your child, you do not have to worry about your child learning that you have filed a VAWA petition. Only the U.S. government, you, and your attorney will know that you have filed for VAWA.

Why Hire an Immigration Attorney

The complexity of immigration laws and the sensitive nature of VAWA  cases make it helpful to seek legal assistance. An experienced immigration attorney can provide you with invaluable help in assessing your eligibility, articulating the abuse, and preparing and submitting a VAWA petition with strong evidence. They can also help you to get in touch with other professionals such as psychologists that can provide professional assessments for your petition. This will help to ensure your petition meets all the requirements for a successful outcome.

For an assessment of your eligibility, more information or help in putting together your VAWA application, please contact our office to schedule a consultation.

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