A divorce case involving a unique immigration policy may force a man to pay alimony for life to his ex-wife. The couple divorced after six years of marriage and she is now alleging that he breached a contract with her and the federal government. Upon marrying her, the man had to sponsor her by affidavit to bring her into the country and agree to support her to prevent her from becoming a burden on any welfare programs.
Under the agreement, the man is required to provide her with 125 percent of the federal poverty level if she doesn't have any income. The affidavit is still in place even in the event of divorce, and the wife has little incentive to find employment since she is not under any requirement to do so. The man alleges that his ex-wife is capable of working, she just chooses not to. He is seeking a possible legislation change to make immigrants in such situations actively look for employment or risk being deported.
The purpose of alimony payments is to minimize any negative financial effects of a divorce for the lower earning or non-income spouse by providing them with a continuous source of income from the assets of the higher earning spouse. In determining the amount of spousal support that should be paid, a court will consider multiple factors including the length of the marriage, the standard of living established during the marriage, the available financial resources of each spouse and the amount of time required for the receiving spouse to acquire the necessary training or education to acquire adequate employment.
Alimony can be considered either rehabilitative or permanent. Rehabilitative alimony is to be paid until the receiving spouse has acquired education to obtain gainful employment to support them. Permanent alimony is to be paid until the death of the receiving spouse or a court order. The case illustrated above highlights a loophole in which an immigrant that is sponsored to enter the country may be entitled to permanent alimony based on the paying spouse's legal requirement to support them at a certain level to prevent them from receiving benefits from a welfare program. Anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation should seek advice from a divorce attorney if they are unsure of their rights and responsibilities regarding alimony payments.
Source: Valley Central, "Immigration loophole may force man to pay lifelong alimony," Brett Crandall, Aug. 12, 2013