Sun | Sep 25, 2022

Immigration Corner | Should my brother divorce his American wife?

Published:Tuesday | July 2, 2019 | 12:21 AM
Dahlia Walker-Huntington
Dahlia Walker-Huntington

Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,

I have a query on behalf of my brother who is a green card holder. He married his American citizen wife seven years ago in Jamaica, and she filed for him and his daughter who is now 10 years old (not her child).

His filing came through in late 2017 and he left the island early 2018 to be with his wife. He and my niece were granted 10-year green cards. Unfortunately, shortly after their relocation to the USA, his relationship with his wife began to deteriorate and she began to treat my niece quite badly - she threw them both out on the streets. After much counselling they attempted to repair the marriage and he moved back in.

To get to the point, my niece was sent to Jamaica for the summer holiday this year and since her departure, my brother's wife has put their things out again and changed her locks. My brother is currently in a shelter as we do not have any family in the state in which he is located.

My brother now wishes to divorce this woman as he feels the relationship is beyond repair. How will this impact their green card status if he divorces her after being in the US for a year? Thank you.

Concerned Sister

Dear Concerned Sister,

Sorry to learn about this situation, but unfortunately it happens. Two married adults and step-children try to live together and they sometimes find out that they are not compatible. The disturbing piece to this pattern is when the sponsoring spouse acts in a cruel and inhumane fashion that disrupts the lives of the new immigrants and leave them vulnerable.

Fortunately for your brother, he has a 10-year green card which makes him a permanent resident. If he had a two-year green card, he would be a conditional resident and that would require him to file for his permanent green card after two years and a divorce would indeed complicate – but not prevent – his permanent status. As such, he has no obligation to his wife to remain in an abusive marriage.

In most states his wife performed an illegal act by changing the locks on the marital home. The house or apartment may have been hers before your brother moved in, but it became marital property when he began residing there. Not that he would want to live with her in the house if she is cruel, but he should explore what his rights are under the family law of his state. Additionally, she sponsored him and his daughter to move to the United States and would have executed an Affidavit of Support in which she pledged to support them until they became US citizens, or until they worked 10 years in America. Leaving him destitute and without a roof over his head has placed her in legal jeopardy.

Your brother should seek the services of a very competent divorce attorney in his state who also has some immigration experienceas as soon as possible.

Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington, Esq is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises immigration law in the United States; and family, criminal and international law in Florida. She is a mediator and special magistrate in Broward County, Florida.