Legal Information: Federal


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Should I leave my home if I am in danger?

You should always keep the safety of you and your children in mind above everything else. If you are in danger, you might want to go to a friend’s house or to a shelter. Shelters are usually free and will have information about other services available in your community. If you stay with a friend or a family member, keep your location secret if possible.

It might be easier to keep your children safe if they leave with you. If you are making plans to stay in a shelter, tell them if you are planning to bring children with you.

It may also be helpful if you can bring these documents, but if you do not have them easily available, do not worry about collecting them:

  • driver’s license
  • identification
  • passports
  • visas for yourself and your children (if you have them)
  • birth certificates
  • documents from any public assistance programs
  • rental agreements
  • checkbooks
  • credit cards
  • paycheck stubs
  • marriage license
  • copies of tax returns for yourself and your partner
  • information about your partner (copies of or information from his visa, green card, certificate of naturalization, passport, or other identification) 

If you think you may need to leave quickly in the future, you may want to pack copies of these items in a bag and take them to a friend’s home.

You do not need these items to leave. They may be helpful, but you can leave safely without them. Do not worry if you do not have time to collect them.

You might also want to view the Safety Tips pages on this website.

If you seek help at a domestic violence shelter, a rape crisis center or a courthouse, CIS is not supposed to use this against you as a reason to start a removal proceeding.

My husband is threatening to take my children away if I leave him. What can I do?

If your abuser is threatening to take your children away or take them to his home country, you can apply for a custody order at any time to prevent him from doing this.

Custody & parental kidnapping laws are based on state law. Each state has its own specific rules. There is state-specific information about custody and parental kidnapping for some states on our website. Choose your state from the top-left corner of any page on this site and then click on Custody or Parental Kidnapping.

Basic things you can do are:

Contact a family lawyer or a domestic violence advocate to find out how to file for a custody order. A custody order can order the other parent not to take the children out of the country or out of the state where you live.

If the children are US citizens, you can send a copy of the custody order to the embassy of your partner’s home country and a copy to the US Department of State to try to prevent either country from issuing passports and/or visas for the children.

Give a copy of the order to the children’s schools and tell the schools not to allow the children to leave with anyone but yourself.

I f you can, make sure that you have recent photos and birth certificates for the children. Keep a list of addresses and phone numbers of the other parent’s friends and relatives in the home country.

Can I get a restraining order even if I am not a citizen or legal resident?

Yes. You do not need to be a citizen or legal resident to get a restraining order.

For a restraining order to be effective, you must be willing to call the police to enforce the order. Applications for restraining orders are generally available at courthouses, women’s shelters, legal services offices, and some police stations.

You will also find information about applying for these orders on this website ( Restraining orders are different in each state. They may be called Protection Orders, Orders of Protection, or other similar names in your state. To read more about the process, choose the state you are in from the drop-down menu on the top, left corner of each page of this website. Then, click on Restraining Order.

A court generally will not ask about your immigration status when you ask for a restraining order. You may want to ask a lawyer, a shelter worker, or someone from an immigrant advocacy group about the policy in your court. To find help, please click on the Places that Help and then chose your state from the drop-down menu.

WomensLaw is not just for women. We serve and support all survivors, no matter their sex or gender.