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The 'hidden' obligation in I-864 affidavits

You have probably heard this story before. A man courts (or is courted by) a beautiful young foreign national, they develop a relationship online that fosters into something romantic. A marriage proposal follows, and the immigrant spouse moves to the United States through a marriage visa.

After a couple of years, the immigrant spouse obtains permanent resident status (i.e. a green card), falls out of love, files for divorce and leaves. The man is crestfallen, not only because of the broken relationship, but also because of the promise made by signing form I-864, also known as an Affidavit of Support.

Basically, a person who signs this document promises to support their immigrant spouse at 125 percent of the federal poverty level and to reimburse the federal government in the event the spouse (or an eligible child) makes a claim for public assistance. Because of this, the potential financial ramifications of this type of divorce cannot be overstated.

After all, federal courts have held that divorce does not terminate a sponsor spouse’s obligation under the I-864. This “contractual” obligation has also been held as separate to a foreign spouse’s statutory right to support. This potentially means that a divorced sponsor spouse could be ordered to pay spousal support under state law in addition to a contractual obligation under federal law.

Indeed, there may be ways to avoid such a potentially expensive scenario. An experienced family law attorney can review your situation, advise you of the applicable law and propose a course of action. If you have questions about federal support affidavit, we invite you to contact us. 

The preceding is not legal advice. 

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