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One quarter of the estimated one million immigrants who gain legal status each year do so through marriage. Unfortunately, these marriages have a high failure rate — and divorce can be complicated. Keep the following in mind if you intend to divorce a foreign national:

Green Card Issues

Immigrant spouses in new marriages receive conditional permanent residence. After two years of marriage, officials attempt to determine the union’s validity. If, at this point, couples fail to satisfy officials’ requirements, the green card spouse may be forced to leave the country. Spouses in marriages deemed legitimate are approved for permanent status. Keep this two-year timeline in mind as you determine the timing of your divorce.

If you divorce prior to that critical two-year mark, you and your ex can prove your adherence to United States immigration laws by completing a Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence. This petition requires joint filing, although waivers for filing alone are available in select circumstances.

Affidavits of Support

Another timing issue: when you filed your affidavit of support, you agreed to a full decade of liability for government-related aid. This leaves you vulnerable to a government-initiated lawsuit. Some spouses work around this by amicably arranging for the foreign national’s departure. More often, resident spouses try to get the government to do the dirty work of removal. However, the foreign national may receive permission to remain in the United States on the basis of extreme hardship.

What If My Spouse Is an Illegal Immigrant?

Illegal immigrants hold the same divorce rights as legal residents and United States citizens. Court proceedings will largely resemble those for traditional divorces. Family matters are settled outside of immigration courts; your divorce court should not contact Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Don’t let fears of your ex’s deportation stop you from pursuing divorce if it’s warranted.

No matter your spouse’s immigration status, you deserve strong legal support from a trusted Minnesota attorney. The law firm of Barna, Guzy & Steffen, Ltd. can help; reach out today to learn more.