Can immigration support affidavits influence divorce settlements?

When American citizens wish to marry foreign citizens and bring them to live in the United States, they are often required to sign sworn affidavits indicating that they will support those foreign citizens so that they will not become public charges. In the event of a divorce between a couple subject to such statements, an I-864 affidavit could potentially be used as evidence that the foreign-born spouse is entitled to spousal maintenance.

It is rare that judges order spousal maintenance on the basis of immigration-related support affidavits. However, it is possible that judges may do so in cases where failure to award spousal maintenance would force the foreign-born spouse to file for food stamps or other governmental assistance. The rationale for upholding this maintenance-related duty is the idea that an immigration support affidavit amounts to a contract between the American citizen and the federal government. Failure to provide support for the foreign-born spouse would therefore be a breach of contract.

Because enforcement of I-864 affidavits is rare, American citizens signing them may dismiss the potential consequences that may accompany their execution in the event of divorce. However, because the government may choose to hold you accountable for your responsibilities under this contract, it is important to carefully weigh signing one. In addition, foreign-born spouses may benefit from trying to enforce these particular contracts.

If you have questions about how I-864 affidavits may influence your divorce settlement, please contact an experienced family law attorney who can guide you through your unique situation and options.

Source: Fox News Latino, “Unique Texas Divorce Case Highlights Little-Known Immigration Clause,” Aug. 13, 2013

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