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Helton Law Firm, PLLC

I-864 Affidavit of Support overrides prenup in divorce case

A prenuptial agreement can generally guide the terms of a divorce in Tennessee; however, every case is unique. When other contracts potentially interfere, as was the case with the immigrant ex-wife of a wealthy real estate agent, the courts could take over decisions about spousal support.

A ruling by the Ninth Circuit appeals court reversed a lower court decision and ordered that the ex-husband pay alimony despite a prenuptial agreement that stated support payments would not be made after divorce. The ex-wife, a Turkish immigrant who came to the U.S. to get married, filed a lawsuit asking that the terms of the I-864 Affidavit of Support be enforced. Immigration authorities require this document when a sponsor brings a spouse into the country. It is meant to ensure that a person will not be left to collect public assistance if divorced.

Both husband and wife had signed the required affidavit, which stated that the sponsor would continue to support the immigrant even if the marriage dissolved. In the opinion of the Ninth Circuit, the affidavit served as a contract that could not be terminated by a prenuptial agreement.

When a person decides to get a divorce, many decisions must be made by the divorcing spouses about child custody, spousal support and property division. An attorney who practices family law could advise a person about how the divorce might proceed. When disputes arise or a spouse challenges the terms of a prenuptial agreement, an attorney could take steps to defend a client's interests. Negotiations could be opened to discuss the amount of alimony or how to divide assets and debts. If an agreement cannot be reached, then a court might settle the issue. An attorney could present information to support the client's goals in court.

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