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Separation & Divorce for Non-citizens

Half of all U.S. marriages end in divorce. Non-citizens are not immune -- if anything, they may be more vulnerable to marital problems than the average person. Visitors to this country face cultural stresses in addition to the usual personal conflicts of married couples, and are often without the support network they would have at home.
  • There are some basic legal issues you should understand if you are considering separation from your spouse.
  • If you and your spouse are physically residing in the US, you have the same access to the courts as citizens.
  • The legal rights and obligations of non-citizens are the same as those of citizens.
  • Divorce may affect your visa; immigration laws need to be taken into account.
  • The law of the state in which you live applies, not the place where you were married.
  • Divorce is time-consuming and expensive.
The divorce laws and procedures in the U.S. may be drastically different from those of your home country. You may also have a choice of where to proceed. Before making any decisions, educate yourself on your options. Talk to an attorney in your home country, and one in the U.S. You may find it preferable to use your home country's system, despite the distance or inconvenience.

Litigation or Mediation?

In the traditional approach to divorce husband and wife both hired lawyers, who spoke to each other to negotiate the issues (child custody, child support, visitation rights, alimony and division of property). Anything not settled by negotiation was litigated, and the decision made by a judge. A litigated divorce is expensive, often resulting in legal fees in excess of $50,000 per person. Litigation is focused on the past, and on establishing fault or guilt in order to win. Many couples don't realize that there are alternatives to hiring lawyers and fighting it out in court. In the long run, a mediated divorce is generally preferable. When a couple can't work out issues by themselves a mediator can help. A mediator is a neutral third person who works with the couple to find mutually acceptable solutions to problems. Mediation is future oriented. The focus is on creating new parenting arrangements and new financial arrangements to replace the old ones. Mediation allows individuals to retain control of the process and the outcome by keeping the decision-making in their own hands. Matters may be resolved in a few sessions with the mediator, and at a much lower cost. The final paperwork to obtain the divorce can often be handled by the couple without any further expense, or by one attorney

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