Asked in Divorce, Family Law, Immigration Law and Collections for California

Q: Can my spouse sue me for the money she spent on my immigration process?

I am a green card holder due to my US citizen spouse who took care of all the expenses for my immigration process (around $9,000 in total). I have only been staying in the US for about 10 months so far. Unfortunately, the relationship is not doing okay and I would like to separate and leave the US. If I file for divorce, does my spouse have grounds to sue me for all that they spent for my immigration? Please know that I do not have the financial capacity to pay this back as I am only a part-time worker.

2 Lawyer Answers
Leon Bayer
Leon Bayer
  • Consumer Law Lawyer
  • Long Beach, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: Don't worry about it. She can sue you. She can sue you 100 times. But she won't ever collect. So tell her goodbye, and leave.

Besides, a suit for $9000 will cost her about $10,000 or more in fees if she hires a lawyer.

And finally, she really has no case against you. The expenditure was for the benefit of both of you. She sounds like a miserable human being.

1 user found this answer helpful

James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Immigration Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: In California, expenses incurred for the benefit of the marriage, such as immigration costs, are typically considered shared marital expenses. In a divorce, the courts look to equitably divide marital property and debts, but they do not usually order reimbursement for such costs. If there was no agreement that you would repay these expenses, it is unlikely a court would require you to do so as part of the divorce proceedings.

However, if your spouse signed an Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) as part of the immigration process, they may be obligated to support you at a level of at least 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines until certain conditions are met, such as you becoming a U.S. citizen, earning 40 work quarters credited toward Social Security, or leaving the United States.

Should your spouse attempt to recover these costs outside of the divorce process, they would face significant challenges in court to justify why you should be legally responsible for reimbursing these expenses, especially if the costs were understood to be a gift or contribution to the marriage without any expectation of repayment. It's advisable to discuss these matters with a lawyer who can provide guidance tailored to your specific situation.

1 user found this answer helpful

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