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Ex-spouse awarded alimony due to I-865 Affidavit

Maryland residents who have an immigrant spouse may be interested to learn that a court ruled that a real estate agent was required to provide alimony for his former spouse despite a prenuptial agreement. There have been several other rulings that similarly agreed that prenuptial agreements did not invalidate the obligation to provide support following a divorce.

The real estate agent, a U.S. citizen who had originally come from Turkey, married his Turkish former wife in 2009. In the marriage contract, the real estate agent agreed that he would support his spouse and keep her income 125 percent above the poverty line. In the couple's prenuptial agreement, however, both parties agreed to no alimony if they divorced. After they divorced in 2012, the former wife filed a lawsuit against her former husband for failing to provide the financial support he had agreed to under the I-864 Affidavit of Support. This affidavit is meant to prevent immigrants from needing federal or state support after moving to country and getting divorced.

A U.S. District Court judge stated that the ex-wife's son's income kept her above the poverty line. Therefore, the man's obligation was met. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit vacated the lower court's ruling and said that the federal immigration obligation overrode the provisions of the prenuptial agreement.

The issue of alimony can often be a contentious one in a divorce, and thus many prospective couples address it in a prenuptial agreement. While this particular case is relatively unusual, there are many other reasons why courts will sometimes fail to uphold such an agreement. One reason is if the court believes that one party was forced to sign it under duress, which is why family law attorneys will recommend to their clients that these agreements should be negotiated and signed well before the wedding.

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