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Immigrant ex-wife entitled to support in spite of prenup

Prenuptial agreements are a popular option for couples in Virginia and around the country who wish to determine in advance how matters like alimony and property division will be handled if they decide to divorce. While these agreements are often able to withstand legal challenges and judicial scrutiny, this is not true in every situation. A federal appeals court ruled on June 8 that a California man was required to provide financial support to his immigrant former wife even though the couple signed a prenuptial agreement before walking down the aisle in 2012 that stipulated no spousal support would be paid if the couple divorced.

In addition to signing the prenuptial agreement, the couple also both signed an I-864 Affidavit of Support. This is a federal immigration document that establishes that an immigrant will be able to cope financially after settling in the United States and will not become a burden to the public. Those who sign such affidavits pledging to support immigrant spouses are not absolved of their obligations by divorce even if a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement is in place.

A federal court originally ruled in the man's favor because his former spouse was receiving financial support from her son, but this decision was vacated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The appeals judge ruled that the support provided to the woman by her son should be her windfall and not her former husband's.

Experienced family law attorneys may suggest prenuptial or postnuptial agreements to shield their clients from contentious and emotionally draining negotiations over matters like property division and spousal support. However, they could also point out that these agreements must be essentially fair and entered into willingly if they are to withstand a subsequent legal challenge.

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