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Affidavit of Support: The Lifetime Alimony Duty of U.S. Citizens Married to Non-U.S. Citizens

Posted on in Immigration
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Illinois family law attorney, Illinois divorce attorney, immigration law,When you decide to marry a non-U.S. citizen and reside in the United States, there are significant bureaucratic obstacles that must be satisfied before you and your soon-to-be spouse can reside happily ever after. The one thing that many mixed-citizen couples do not take into consideration is the fact that once they have tied the knot, they are bound together for life, even if they decide to divorce.

Affidavit of Support

The United States, when permitting non-U.S. citizens to reside in the United States with their U.S. citizen spouses, requires that the U.S. citizen spouses sign an affidavit of support, which is an affidavit that the petitioner (usually the U.S. citizen) signs to declare that they will accept the financial burden and responsibility for the non-U.S. citizen so that the non-U.S. citizen does not become a ward of the state. In other words, by signing the affidavit of support, the U.S. citizen is agreeing to a legally enforceable agreement that he or she will provide lifetime alimony to their non-U.S. citizen spouse.

Affidavit of Support and its Relationship to Spousal Maintenance

This lifetime alimony is in addition to whatever spousal support the court might require pursuant to the divorce decree after the equitable distribution of the assets, and the creation of the spousal maintenance documents, go into effect. The difference is that lifetime alimony is not dictated by the marital status of the non-U.S. citizen, meaning the spouse, post-divorce, could marry another person and still receive the lifetime alimony, according to the terms of the affidavit of support.

Requirements of the Affidavit of Support

The good thing for the U.S. spouse, however, is that the affidavit of support does not provide lifetime alimony without limitation. The affidavit of support requires that the U.S. spouse provide the non-U.S. spouse with enough financial support that the non-U.S. spouse’s household income meets 125 percent or higher of the U.S. poverty level. In other words, if the non-U.S. spouse has some earning capacity, and/or receives financial assistance because of the spousal maintenance that they received in the divorce, as long as the household income meets this 125 percent threshold, then the U.S. citizen has satisfied their duty under the affidavit of support.

“Means-Tested Public Benefits”: U.S. Citizen Must Repay

Remember, the purpose of the affidavit of support is to ensure that if a U.S. citizen brings a non-U.S. citizen into the country, they ensure that the non-U.S. citizen does not become a ward of the state. Therefore, if the non-U.S. citizen is receiving any type of “means-tested public benefits” like food stamps, the U.S. citizen, pursuant to the affidavit of support, must repay the cost attributed to those benefits.

When the Affidavit of Support Duty Is Discharged

Another limitation of the affidavit of support is that it only applies when the non-U.S. citizen is still not a U.S. citizen. Once the non-citizen has applied and been accepted as a citizen of the United States, the duty of the sponsor has been discharged. The sponsor’s duty is discharged also when the non-U.S. citizen works 40 quarters of work, permanently leaves the United States, or dies.

Experienced Family Law Attorneys in DuPage County

Deciding to marry a non-U.S. citizen has many obstacles and plenty of considerations for the U.S. citizen deciding to sponsor the soon-to-be spouse. It is important to speak with experienced family law attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC who can advise you of any legal issues that may arise as a result of your multinational marriage. Contact our experienced DuPage County family law attorneys today for a free and confidential consultation.

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