Getting married is a momentous occasion, often feeling like the start of a new life with your spouse. For some couples, geographical barriers, cultural differences, and immigration systems must be overcome to realize these unions. Given the difficulty of forming these marriages, many people assume that divorcing an immigrant spouse will be equally as contentious. They may fear that their spouse will be deported following the divorce or that other legal consequences may arise.
At ZafiroLaw, our dual family and immigration law practice allow us to navigate these matters with ease. We understand how divorces between U.S. citizens and foreign-born spouses work, and we apply this knowledge to ensure that our clients see a smooth and peaceful dissolution of marriage. To learn more about the process of divorcing your immigrant spouse, consider contacting our Seattle office at (206) 309-9645 today.
What Is the Process of Divorcing an Immigrant Spouse?
Recent data from the United States Census Bureau reports that nearly 10% of all married households include a foreign-born spouse. This number increases to over 20% when couples consisting of two foreign-born spouses are included. As such, marriages between United States citizens and immigrant spouses are not uncommon. Given the frequency of these marriages and the complexity of U.S. immigration law, many people wonder how divorce works in these situations.
When seeking divorce from your immigrant spouse, legal issues concerning family law and immigration status may arise. Regardless of the people involved in the marriage and the length of time that the union lasted, divorce is a difficult matter to navigate. It forces major decisions and action which can be further complicated by immigration issues.
Divorcing an immigrant spouse requires the same steps as a regular divorce between two U.S. citizens. In Washington, there are no set residency requirements to file for divorce, meaning it is not necessary for you to have resided in the state for a specific amount of time before filing for divorce. According to RCW 26.09.080, if your spouse has never lived in Washington and you do not have children conceived in the state, dividing your property will be difficult. The Hague Conference on Private International Law has set forth guidelines for dealing with divorces between spouses who reside in different countries. An experienced family law attorney can help with these matters.
Finally, Washington is a no-fault divorce state, which means you do not need to prove that your spouse was at fault for the separation. Rather, you can merely cite that your marriage is irretrievably broken and proceed with the divorce. To initiate the process, you must file a divorce petition in the county where either you or your spouse resides.
What Are the Consequences If I File for Divorce After Petitioning for My Foreign Spouse?
Divorcing a person who is not a naturalized citizen of the United States can be a difficult and lengthy affair. This is primarily due to the strict immigration laws of the United States and its interaction with Washington state family law. According to Section 319(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, a foreign spouse can apply for naturalization after three years of marriage.
ZafiroLaw is a dual family and immigration law firm. As such, we have noted some of the practical consequences associated with filing for divorce from a foreign spouse such as:
- Delaying when the foreign spouse can apply for naturalization. If you petitioned for your foreign spouse and they are currently residing in the United States with a Green Card, their immigration status will typically not be affected. That being said, they may be forced to wait longer to naturalize as a United States citizen. The waiting period increases to five years if the spouses are no longer married.
- Continuing financial support of your spouse. In the majority of cases, when a person petitions for their foreign spouse, they are required to sign an I-864 Affidavit of Support. This document becomes relevant during divorce proceedings, as you will be required to continue supporting your spouse even after the marriage ends.
- Affecting the residency status of your spouse. If the divorce happens within two years of your marriage, your spouse will be required to submit a waiver application to USCIS if they still wish to continue with their permanent resident/ green card status.
Will My Spouse Be Deported Upon Our Divorce?
It is common to worry that your spouse will be deported upon your divorce. If your spouse is already a permanent resident, their Green Card will not be revoked. If your spouse’s status is dependent on your current or pending visa application, however, they may be disqualified as your named dependent after your divorce. In these cases, it may be more difficult for your former spouse to become a permanent resident, but it is not impossible.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services is incredibly wary of fraudulent marriages and divorcing your foreign spouse may raise concerns. Generally, the USCIS will not view divorce as an automatic indicator of a bad faith marriage, however. While divorcing an immigrant spouse may be more involved than the average divorce, it does not mean that your spouse will be deported upon the dissolution of your marriage.
Contact ZafiroLaw Today
Seeking divorce is rarely an easy decision to make. The difficulty of this choice can be increased by immigration issues and concerns surrounding your spouse’s residency in the United States. You may fear that your property will be unfairly distributed or that child custody issues may arise due to your spouse being outside of the United States. Fortunately, our experienced team of family and immigration law attorneys understand how to navigate these issues and ensure that your rights are upheld throughout the process. To learn more, consider scheduling a consultation with us today at (206) 309-9645.