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Immigration issue trumps prenuptial agreement

Things are not always what they appear to be. Before a couple married in 2009, the husband — a U.S. citizen originally from Turkey — agreed with his immigrant bride that there would be no alimony in the event their marriage ended in divorce.

When they separated in 2011 and then divorced in 2012, it appeared that their prenuptial agreement would indeed enable him to forgo paying spousal support. His former wife had other ideas, however, and sued him in federal court, arguing that the I-864 Affidavit of Support he signed when she immigrated to the U.S. required him to provide financial support regardless of the prenup.

The case is of special interest here in Texas, where marriages between U.S. citizens and immigrants are regular occurrences. Though this particular case played out in California, a recent ruling by the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has implications for the entire nation. The appeals court vacated a lower court's ruling in favor of the real estate agent husband. The Ninth Circuit court ruling means that immigration documents that require a sponsor to support the immigrant hold sway over a prenuptial agreement.

The I-864 immigration document states that the sponsor's obligations aren't negated by divorce. The Ninth Circuit ruling stated that "neither divorce judgment nor a premarital agreement may terminate an obligation of support."

Of course, the ruling applies to a narrow subset of prenuptial agreements. Anyone with questions about the protections afforded by a prenup can discuss the details of their situation with a Dallas family law attorney experienced in crafting prenuptial and postnuptial agreements.

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