The community property laws in states like Arizona require marital property to be divided equally when couples divorce. Couples who wish to establish alternative arrangements sometimes enter into prenuptial contracts, but these agreements may not be valid in all situations. One such case involved a wealthy California real estate agent who married a Turkish citizen in 2009. The man entered into a prenuptial contract before getting married, but he also signed an I-864 Affidavit of Support pledging to assist his wife financially once she settled in the United States.
The couple divorced in 2012, and the man’s former wife soon filed a federal lawsuit claiming that she was entitled to receive support payments under the terms of the I-864 Affidavit of Support. The man argued that his former wife was living above the poverty line due to support she received from her son, and he pointed out that the terms of the prenuptial agreement she had signed stipulated that no alimony would be paid.
Affidavits of Support are federal documents, and the commitments made by spouses who sign them do not end with divorce. However, a federal judge ruled that the man was not required to continue supporting his former wife due to the financial assistance that she was already receiving. The woman then appealed the ruling, and a federal appeals court ruled in her favor and vacated the lower court decision on June 8.
Experienced family law attorneys may recommend prenuptial or postnuptial agreements to couples who wish to establish their own terms for matters such as property division and spousal support should they decide to divorce, but they may also point out the limitations of this type of contract. Attorneys could also explain that prenuptial agreements may be ruled invalid if they were not entered into willingly or negotiations were conducted in bad faith.