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Immigration, divorce and property division can impact each other

A rarely-enforced aspect of immigration law is at the heart of one Texas divorce case, which involves a Mexican-born spouse and a divorce from several years ago. A woman born outside U.S. borders married an American man, but the marriage did not last. However, prior to their union, the husband signed an affidavit vowing to support his spouse so that she would not end up a "public charge," or someone who relies on government assistance.

These affidavits are sometimes signed when someone born outside the United States marries a U.S. citizen, and the non-citizen is hoping to obtain residency. Nonetheless, they are often simply filed-away and forgotten. In this case, though, the form has been used by the former wife to argue that she should receive alimony from her ex-husband. Alimony can frequently be a bone of contention during the property division part of a divorce, and spouses will sometimes use former agreements to bolster their claims.

The woman has sued her former spouse in federal court, claiming that the man had entered into a contract with her and the U.S. government at the start of their marriage. According to the woman, the contract meant that the man needed to support her at 125 percent of the poverty level.

Some argue that the fact that the couple was married for several years should override the concept of an immigrant needing financial support. Others say that the public charge doctrine is an important element of America's immigration policy. At the personal level though, it can be a confusing aspect of any divorce.

Many Texans, amidst trying to differentiate marital property from community property, may also be contending with alimony and spousal support. In Texas, spousal maintenance differs from contractual alimony. The latter may be enforced alongside related property division agreements, but a family law attorney is frequently needed to sort-out the details and ensure protection of assets.

Source: FOX News Latino, "Unique Texas divorce case highlights little-known immigration clause," Aug. 13, 2013.

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Attorney Christine K. Lincoln

Christine K. Lincoln offers sound counsel and legal services to protect clients and their families facing divorce and other family disputes.

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