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Immigration documents trump prenuptial agreements in divorce

Many couples planning to marry in New Hampshire take a realistic and careful examination of their lives before walking down the aisle. As part of that examination, they choose to create a prenuptial agreement that will help determine how assets will be divided should the marriage end in divorce. However, recent federal rulings seems to make it clear that agreements made in prenups cannot supersede the terms of certain federal documents regarding an immigration sponsor's fiscal responsibilities.

The most recent ruling involves the case of a man and wife who married in 2009. Records indicate that the man, who served as his soon-to-be wife's immigrant sponsor, agreed that he would provide her with an income at a minimum of 125 percent over the poverty level. In a prenuptial agreement, however, the couple apparently agreed that there would be no alimony in the event of a divorce.

The couple divorced in 2012, and the woman moved in with her son. While she received food stamps, the son was supporting the two with just over $3,000 a month. Claiming that her former husband only gave her $3,500 to help her move, she filed a lawsuit requesting that he pay her the rest of the money promised in an I-864, an affidavit that shows how an immigrant plans to support him or herself. While a lower court ruled that a former spouse was still required to provide support, the judge claimed that the terms of support was satisfied by the woman's son. A higher court recently agreed with the first part of the ruling, but determined that the divorce did not end the man's support obligation, even though a third party is willing to provide support.

This case isn't the first one dealing with a sponsor's responsibility to support a former spouse, but it does make it clear that a prenuptial agreement does not supersede contractual agreements when it comes to federal immigration documents. However, those who have moved to New Hampshire with the expectation of support from a spouse can often find themselves floundering if that support is withheld following a divorce. Because the court system can be complex, an experienced attorney can help pursue the appropriate alimony or other forms of support.

Source:, "Immigrant Ex Gets Alimony Despite Prenup", Nick Rummell, June 8, 2016

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