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Spousal support upheld in case of immigrant divorce

Going to a Tennessee court to litigate issues surrounding a divorce can be a stressful matter, but a prenuptial agreement could simplify things for people who have thought through the potential end of their marriage in advance. However, there are many cases in which these agreements can be challenged based on issues such as the exertion of undue pressure or the lack of legal representation when signing. A recent divorce between a U.S. citizen and his immigrant wife demonstrates that a prenuptial agreement could be set aside if another contract is found to take precedence.

The woman involved in the case immigrated from Turkey under the sponsorship of her future husband. He along with her signed an Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) in connection with his sponsorship of the woman for immigration. The couple also executed a prenuptial agreement in which they both resolved to forego any alimony if they later divorced.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit reviewed the ruling of a lower court, in which the husband's obligation to provide sponsorship support related to Form I-864 was considered to still be valid. The lower court, however, deemed the support provided to the woman by her adult son after the divorce along with food stamps to constitute sufficient income to comply with immigration requirements. The 9th Circuit disagreed with the lower court's decision in this area, noting that absolving the sponsor of responsibility could be viewed as a windfall to that party. Such action could be viewed as reason for other sponsors to withhold support in hope that charitable entities might pick up the costs. In so doing, the appellate court held the waiver of alimony to be essentially invalid.

A prenuptial agreement can be difficult to contest if it was legally executed well in advance of the wedding date. However, it might be helpful to discuss the terms of the agreement and the circumstances related to signing it with a lawyer to determine whether there are possible areas in which the matter could be reasonably challenged.

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Stanley A. Kweller, Attorney at Law
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