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Prenup overruled by Ninth Circuit court

Texas couples considering divorce may be interested in learning about the recent fate of the prenuptial agreement between a millionaire real estate agent and the immigrant wife he was sponsoring. In March 2011, the couple separated, and the two were divorced in 2012. However, the Ninth Circuit court said that the man must continue to provide support to his wife based on the I-864 Affidavit of Support that both parties agreed to.

In the contract, the man agreed to keep his wife's income at 125 percent above the federal poverty level. The wife claimed that after the divorce, the man only provided $3,500 to help with moving expenses. In addition, the woman received food stamps as well as support from the $3,200-a-month income of her son. According to the sponsor, that income kept her above 125 percent of the federal poverty level and meant that the terms of the affidavit were technically being honored.

While a lower court agreed, the Ninth Circuit said that her outside income was irrelevant when looking at the terms of the I-864. Essentially, the terms of the affidavit overrule any outside prenuptial agreements. This is done to ensure that an individual entering the country has the means to support him or herself and won't become dependent on public services upon divorce.

After a divorce, there are many issues that a couple may have to sort out. One of these issues is spousal support. If a prenuptial agreement is in place, it generally determines who gets support. However, there are times when such an agreement will be ruled invalid. First, those sponsoring an immigrant spouse may be bound by the terms of their sponsorship. Additionally, the agreement may be invalid if it was signed under duress.

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