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Little-Known Divorce Clause Causes Heartache in Texas

Posted on in Divorce

Little-Known Divorce Clause Causes Heartache in TexasA case earlier this year in Texas highlights a little-known immigration clause when it comes to divorce, according to Fox News. When Evangelina Zapata married Steve Summers, he signed an affidavit "vowing to support her so that she would not become a ‘public charge,'" Fox reports. Zapata was born in Mexico, and Summers needed to sign the affidavit as part of Zapata's quest for citizenship. The affidavit is formally known as Form I-864, published by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. According to NOLO, the affidavit is "a legally enforceable contract, meaning that either the government or the sponsored immigrant can take the sponsor to court if the sponsor fails to provide adequate support." NOLO states that the sponsor is responsible until the immigrant becomes a U.S. citizen, or has "earned 40 work quarters credited toward Social Security [about 10 years of work], dies, or permanently leaves the United States."

The little-known clause of the matter is that the sponsor, according to Fox, is still on the hook for the person he or she sponsored—even if the marriage dissolves. Divorce is not a reason for the sponsor to not fulfill his obligations. According to NOLO, "yes, a divorced immigrant spouse could decide to sit on a couch all day and sue the former spouse for support." NOLO suggests having a separate contract that states the immigrant spouse would not do this, but admits that the courts may not uphold a contract agreement such as this.

This, of course, is exactly what's happening in the Summers case. The couple divorced four years ago, according to Fox, and the affidavit "is being held up by Zapata in her push to get Summers to pay her alimony. She has sued Summers in federal court for breaking the contract to support her at 125 percent of the poverty level." The problem, as one attorney told Fox, is that people sign these documents, they get filed, and people forget. And then they're on the hook for something they hadn't even considered after divorce.

If you or someone you know is considering divorce and may have signed a document such as this, don't go through it alone. The most important first step is to seek the counsel of an experienced family law attorney. Contact Powers and Kerr, PLLC today.

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