For better or worse, or at least until naturalization

Obligations of financial support for ex-spouses of sponsored legal residents

Immigration is certainly at the forefront of current news headlines, even impacting issues of divorce in Florida.

If you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a green card to work legally, you may petition to sponsor an immigrant based on your marriage to him or her to live and work in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident. Depending on your family situation, your sponsored spouse may eventually be able to apply for citizenship.

But what if before that happens, you and your husband or wife decide to divorce. If your spouse is not a citizen, can he or she get an order for you to pay alimony in a Florida court?

Florida judges have said yes.

For example, in the 2018 case of Castleman v. Bicaldo, the District Court of Appeal of Florida, Fourth District, which sits in West Palm Beach, looked at the issue of an alimony award issued by the trial court in favor of Bicaldo, the wife. She had immigrated to the U.S. to marry Castleman, giving her conditional permanent resident status with a green card. About two years into the marriage, Castleman filed for divorce, in which the court ordered him to pay monthly alimony of $2,000 for three years.

The appeals court did not even discuss whether alimony was proper given the wife’s immigration status. Instead, it implied that alimony was appropriate because it analyzed the spousal support order on its merits, finding that the lower court had erred by ordering a duration longer than the marriage in violation of state statute. The appeals court sent the case back for reconfiguration of the duration or of the type of alimony awarded to comply with the law.

If the law did not allow a trial court to order an alimony award in favor of someone with Bicaldo’s immigration status, the appeals court would not have sent the case back for a proper alimony order.

Anyone in Florida approaching divorce involving a spouse who is a permanent resident or in which either spouse has other immigration issues should speak with an experienced family lawyer to understand potential legal issues in the case.

This case is available on Westlaw at 248 So.3d 1181.

 

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