Although it was once unusual for the average person to interact with people from other countries, advances in science and technology now make it common to travel far from home for both business and pleasure. As a result, multinational marriages are also much more common than they once were. When an American marries a foreign-born spouse, U.S. law requires a lengthy immigration process that begins with granting the foreign national permanent residence status, commonly known as a “green card” holder. What happens, however, if you are in the U.S. as a green card holder and your marriage ends in divorce? A Murfreesboro divorce attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby explains the financial ramifications of divorce for a permanent resident.
Divorce for a Green Card Holder
Realizing that a marriage is destined to end is difficult enough without adding in complicating factors, such as the fact that one spouse is not yet a United States citizen. Imagine, for example, that you met an American citizen while he/she was abroad. The two of you fell in love and decided to marry. Your American fiancé filed the necessary paperwork to secure permission for you to enter the country and get married. You are granted permanent resident status in the U.S. Things seem great for a while; however, the marriage starts to breakdown. You have predominantly relied on your spouse for financial support since your arrival to the U.S. How will you support yourself after the divorce?
The reality is that some version of that scenario plays out in the U.S. on a regular basis. In fact, many foreign-born spouses remain in an unhappy, or even abusive, marriage because they fear the repercussions of divorce prior to gaining citizenship. The good news is that foreign-born spouse is afforded a certain degree of financial protection if the marriage end sin divorce.
Affidavit of Support – Form I-864
When an American citizen petitions for a foreign-born spouse to become a permanent resident, the American citizen is required to file a USCIS Form I-864, Affidavit of Support. In essence, Form I-864 is used to prove that the petitioner has the financial means necessary to provide for the applicant spouse. It also creates a contractual relationship that can extend that financial support beyond the end of the marriage.
Part 8 of Form I-864 makes this petitioner’s duty to provide support clear, stating as follows:
I understand that, if I am related to the sponsored immigrant by marriage, the termination of the marriage (by divorce, dissolution, annulment, or other legal process) will not relieve me of my obligations under this Form I-864.
In that same section, Form I-864 provides that the petitioner is obligated to “provide the intending immigrant any support necessary to maintain him or her at an income that is at least 125 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for his or her household.” The exact dollar amount a spouse might be ordered to contribute during or after a divorce will depend on several factors, including the fact that the Federal Poverty Guidelines are adjusted on an annual basis. For 2021, the federal poverty level for a household of one is $12,880. That means that a spouse who sponsored your move to the United States is contractually obligated through the Form I-864 to ensure that at least $1,342 per month is available for your support – even after a divorce.
When a divorce involves a party who is not yet a U.S. citizen, it can make the divorce process more complicated. If you find yourself facing divorce after marrying a U.S. citizen, it is important that you consult with an experienced divorce lawyer right away to ensure that you understand your legal rights. Depending on the circumstances of your situation, you and your divorce lawyer may also decide to consult with an immigration lawyer to make sure all your rights are protected during and after the divorce.
Contact a Murfreesboro Divorce Attorney
If you have questions or concerns about the divorce process in Tennessee, it is important that you consult with an experienced Murfreesboro divorce attorney to discuss your options. Contact the team at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.