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May 14, 2015 11:14 AM   Subscribe

My (US Citizen) husband recently indicated that he’d like me (a UK Citizen) to leave. Where do I start?

During a recent argument, my husband of 7 years made it very clear that he wished me to move back to the Uk.

I knew he harboured ill feeling towards me for being a disappointing wife, but this time I was quite shocked at how deep these feelings went. There were many subjects covered regarding my uselessness, some I knew of already and some I didn’t. The next day he seemed to regret some of his accusations and said he wanted to retract them and I suggested perhaps we needed counselling, which I’ve since mentioned a couple of more times, but he’s not taken it forward any further, and I know its not an action he would feel comfortable with.

But it is difficult to unhear certain things, irrelevant even if he tries to backtrack on them, so in the intervening couple of months I’ve decided that our marriage isn’t going to improve, I'm tired of it all, and think the best thing to do is indeed to leave. I expect my only option will be to go back to the UK which is fine.

The main problem is that he wanted me to leave, but not divorce me for financial reasons.* I told him that if he wanted me to leave then I’d expect not to be married to him anymore.
So; where do I start?

Apart from the fact that I need to somehow get myself and my belongings back to the UK, do I need a lawyer? What sort of lawyer? A divorce lawyer or one who would be more in tune with the immigration side of things? (I am currently a Permanent Resident, with restrictions lifted). Is it best to get a lawyer here or move back to the UK first and get one there? And, hypothetically. does anyone know what would happen if I moved back to the UK and but not get divorced?
I’m a low key kind of gal; I don’t want a big fuss, and I certainly don’t want to make my husband any more resentful than he already seems to be.

To be honest I don’t really want to make matters worse and take his hard earned cash, whether I’d be due some of it or not (I haven’t got a job, he earns $25k, and I am dependent on him financially). But I’d need help from him to cover moving on costs, and with lawyers and/or the divorce process, and we don’t have any savings or collateral whatsoever. I have no friends for support and feel a bit isolated (I can't even bloody drive!).

* What seemed to be bugging him is that while we were filling in copious amounts of Immigration forms during the earlier phase of our marriage he had to sign an I-864 Affidavit of Support - an agreement to support me financially wherever I was in the world for a long long time even if we were divorced. I’d forgotten about this and at the time never even gave it a second thought. But I guess he did...

Could you give me any pointers where to start? I’m in Texas.
Thank you so much!
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (21 answers total)
Lawyer Lawyer Lawyer.

You're asking legal questions. Ask a Lawyer. One from the jurisdiction that your legal issues are in (Texas/US).
posted by jclarkin at 11:25 AM on May 14, 2015 [11 favorites]

The main problem is that he wanted me to leave, but not divorce me for financial reasons.

Okay, I read this and immediately said "FUCK THAT" out loud. Because...fuck that. He signed the paperwork and entered into a legal marriage with you, he needs to dissolve it legally. Him being resentful is not your problem — you owe it to yourself to look into every option.

Best of luck to you. I would call an immigration lawyer to start and find out if they can refer you to a divorce lawyer who specializes in cases like yours. This sounds like a terrible situation.
posted by mynameisluka at 11:26 AM on May 14, 2015 [35 favorites]

Yes, you need a lawyer - one who does both divorce and immigration law. You should also get copies of anything you've signed or been issued (leases, DHS notices, etc.) because your lawyer may need some of that stuff.

I also strongly recommend that you get into counseling for yourself - show the therapist this post. I think you could use both the support and the objective opinion.
posted by SMPA at 11:27 AM on May 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm so sorry this is happening to you, and want to at least offer my minimal internet support. This sounds so painful to deal with. What I wonder is do you WANT to move back to the UK? If that's the best option for you because you do have family/friends there, then that's what you should do, but if you're a permanent resident without restrictions, presumably you could continue living in the US and get a job, etc., if you'd like. Beyond that, if your husband is the one asking you to leave, I think it's certainly fair to expect him to cover the cost of your move and expenses related to you getting resettled.
posted by odayoday at 11:28 AM on May 14, 2015 [7 favorites]

Oh, and yeah, no, divorce him. He doesn't get to remain married to you for reasons that are convenient only to him.
posted by odayoday at 11:29 AM on May 14, 2015 [16 favorites]

Apart from the fact that I need to somehow get myself and my belongings back to the UK, do I need a lawyer?

You do need a lawyer, and IANYL, but you really, probably, do not have to leave the country for immigration reasons (permanent means permanent unless you do something to lose that status, generally). I would consult with a divorce lawyer ASAP. A divorce lawyer in a border state like Texas will probably also have a pretty good handle on the related immigration issues (or be able to refer you to someone who does).

I can understand that you might want to head back home for many reasons (financial, support system, job prospects), but don't let your STBX force you.

Please also don't let your STBX have his cake and eat it too. He wants you out of his hair, but he doesn't want to have to pay up on the financial obligations that he made when he married you, and agreed in writing to support you as part of your immigration process.

Good luck, as a PR myself I can only imagine what you're going through right now.
posted by sparklemotion at 11:33 AM on May 14, 2015 [4 favorites]

Yes, you need a Texas-based divorce lawyer. Preferably one with immigration knowledge, but they must have knowledge of marriage and divorce in Texas. You should contact one before you leave, and any lawyer worth his/her salt will be able to continue pushing your case stateside after you move back to the UK, should you choose to go that route.

And while hiring a lawyer will probably increase the tension somewhat, it does not have to make the situation ugly and acrimonious. Despite the horror stories, many people go into divorce just wanting to get it over with, without really caring so much about the money. So you should have little trouble finding a divorce lawyer who is willing to take this approach.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 11:34 AM on May 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

Lots of thoughts, I'll start with this though: As a Permanent Resident with no residency restrictions, you shouldn't HAVE to move back to the UK (if you WANT to, then that's another matter). Personally, I'm kind of in the same boat as you (I'm a UK citizen, married to a US citizen, currently divorcing). I'm not going to be moving back to the UK.

It's been some time since I dealt with the Affidavit of Support stuff, but I seem to remember that it was only applicable up until the residency restrictions are lifted and permanent residency is granted.

Definitely get in contact with a divorce lawyer though (immigration shouldn't be an issue).
posted by zedbends at 11:41 AM on May 14, 2015 [9 favorites]

Deep breath here.

The I-864 is not "an agreement to support me financially wherever I was in the world". It's an affirmation to the US government that the sponsor has the funds to support a sponsored immigrant, and accepts liability if the sponsored immigrant draws upon (US) public funds. It stays in effect until the immigrant becomes a citizen or accrues 40 qualifying quarters of Social Security credit, whichever comes soonest.

If you've been a LPR long enough to be eligible for citizenship (or close), then it might be worth scraping together the money to do that. At very least, the I-131 re-entry permit allows you to leave the US for a period without giving up LPR status. If you want to be completely shot of the US (and frankly, I wouldn't blame you) you can do that, but if you had to return for whatever reason, relinquishing LPR status makes things trickier. And if you can scrape together enough money to just GTFO somewhere in the US you feel less isolated, that might be a start. You

Yeah, lawyer lawyer lawyer, either a lawyer whose divorce practice covers immigration, or two lawyers that can work together.

Those are the technicalities. The practicality is that you need cash money dollars to get out of this situation, and most of the means-tested public-assistance routes may be cut off because of the public charge rules. But your husband doesn't get to decide this.

If you feel like you can better deal with this from the UK, and have a support network there, then perhaps put your stuff into storage locally, get the ball rolling with a lawyer in Texas, book a flight back to Britain, do what you can remotely, return when needed to clean up what's left. If you're gone for less than six months and can demonstrate to CBP that your time in the UK is temporary in nature (having your stuff in storage would be one data point to demonstrate that) then it shouldn't be considered as abandoning permanent residency.
posted by holgate at 11:48 AM on May 14, 2015 [7 favorites]

Well, I remembered incorrectly, the I-864 expires after you either become a US citizen, contribute to 40 quarters of social security (about 10 years), leave the country, or die (not necessarily in that order). So, yeah, he may still be on the hook for that one.
posted by zedbends at 11:48 AM on May 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Nthing that you need a lawyer.

Continuing to be married to a US citizen while you are residing in the UK will be a tax nightmare. It is SO not worth it (for so many reasons, but also tax reasons).
posted by melissasaurus at 11:55 AM on May 14, 2015 [4 favorites]

There is actually a limit to how long he would have to support you in the Affidavit of Support - the language is pretty clear, here's the relevant section, but you can verify by looking at your paperwork and the USCIS site. Sponsorship ends under the following conditions:

"Immigrant leaves USA and gives up residency, OR;
Immigrant Naturalizes and becomes a citizen, OR;
Immigrant works and is credited with 40 quarters of work per SSA, OR;
Immigrant dies, OR;
Sponsor dies"

FYI, 40 credits of work usually corresponds to about 10 years. Also, the agreement isn't to support you anywhere in the world, it is to specifically support you while you live in the US to keep you from using government funds. Again, the USCIS website is very remarkable helpful and there are a bunch of immigration forums that you should probably avail yourself of, especially since you don't have an income. You do need a lawyer, but I'd suggest starting with those forums and Google first; the lawyer is going to rack up costs very quickly and it may not be easy for you to get one if you don't have a job and are considering moving back to the UK.

I wonder if the easiest way to deal with this is to just apply for citizenship; average waits right now are around 5-7 months depending on where in the country you are and getting your divorce situation sorted will take at least that long. So why not apply for citizenship right away and then you don't have to deal with the sponsorship issue? If you are able to pay attention to the kind of detail that's needed when filling out forms, you can absolutely file for citizenship yourself. Forms and instructions are on the USCIS website, and if you have questions, folks on the immigration forums can be very helpful.

On the other hand, if you leave the U.S. to end his sponsorship responsibility, you would need to give up residency and who knows, in the future, you might find permanent access to the U.S. useful, and you won't have that any more.
posted by ashworth at 11:56 AM on May 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

The easiest way is to file for naturalization and become a US citizen before pursuing divorce. But as a permanent resident without restrictions, you can still divorce him and not lose your right to permanent residence in the US as long as you stay in the US. If you decide to move back to the UK and are willing to take on the hassle of filing US taxes from abroad in exchange for the right to return to the US at any time, then you should be able to file for US citizenship independently of your spouse, assuming that you immigrated on a marriage green card. (The timeline for eligibility to naturalize is 3 years of permanent residency if married to a US spouse and 5 years otherwise. It sounds like you'll be eligible under either route.)

Disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer, just a recently naturalized US citizen who did the paperwork myself.
posted by serelliya at 12:17 PM on May 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm so sorry this is happening to you. I'm a divorced permanent resident also from the UK.
If you want to stay in the US you can. I separated from my husband before my conditions were removed and I had my conditions removed without an interview and without a request for any more information.
What I do encourage you to think about, is that it's not HIS hard earned money. You're married, he is supporting you. He has been happy to do this until now. My husband was supporting me and separating put me in a terrible situation. I had no money, nowhere to live and it took years to get back on my feet. I wish now that I had tried to find a lawyer. He made a commitment to me and he couldn't keep that commitment yet his life remained the same and mine was destroyed.
Please look after yourself and get a lawyer. There's no reason you'll have issues with USCIS. I'm even applying for citizenship now after 5 years as a permanent resident.
I also agree with everyone telling you to get a therapist. He is manipulating you and it's stopping you from taking care of yourself. You deserve to look out for your interests.
posted by shesbenevolent at 12:37 PM on May 14, 2015 [9 favorites]

And as serelliya said, if you go back to the UK and spend over 6 months there, you may lose your resident status. It's a gray area so consult an immigration lawyer if you do decide to go back.
posted by shesbenevolent at 12:40 PM on May 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

He doesn't want a divorce because it'd be inconvenient for him, and him alone: well that's just too bad, isn't it?!? The very first thing you need to do is, realize that you have to make all future decisions based solely on how they affect you --- his convenience or dis/approval or agreement or anything else is a far-distant second place, nothing should matter to you now except for what kind of effect a decision or action would have on you, and you alone. He doesn't get to toss you aside while also demanding you follow his rules.

Next comes removing any and all of your papers, files, computers etc. from his reach. All your PR paperwork, your passport, birth and wedding certificates, anything you might need in the coming fight --- store it at a friend's, rent a U-store-it locker, whatever: just get your legal info out of his potential grip. No need to make a big thing about this, do it quietly and unnoticeably if possible, but do it before your husband thinks of stashing it all out of your reach.

Talk to a lawyer. Ask about your legal immigration status, how to decide if you or your husband should move out, how to divorce him; basically get the lawyer to detail what steps you should take and when, including when to even tell your soon-to-be-ex that you have talked to a lawyer. And remember that you are paying that lawyer for their experienced and expert advice, so follow it!

Good luck, and I hope things get better for you.
posted by easily confused at 1:01 PM on May 14, 2015 [6 favorites]

I'm so sorry about your situation. Please listen to those who said go see a lawyer. Call your County Bar Association if you need help finding someone with expertise in this area. Get ahold of every single document you have such as passport, ID, personal effects and put them in a safe place. Do NOT move out of your shared residence until you talk to a lawyer.
posted by mmf at 1:15 PM on May 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

Even if you aren't worried about about supporting yourself or money, you should still get the divorce if you leave. Otherwise it will cause problems for you with taxes and future relationships.
posted by hermanubis at 2:25 PM on May 14, 2015 [5 favorites]

As someone who has gone through a divorce, I advise you to get a lawyer, but also to listen to the lawyer's advice and follow it. What you feel and think now will be very different from what you feel and think in 3 years.

I really understand and appreciate your approach, but you will eventually discover that nobody, and least of all your soon to be ex-husband, will thank you for being humble and modest.
When we were divorced, I was more preoccupied with my ex-husband's future than with my own (my excuse was that we have a daughter together). I was certain I would manage, and I did. But if I had listened to my lawyer, I would have been in a far better situation, and so would my ex! You need to understand this. Sometimes the things you do out of courtesy can actually work the wrong way. Lawyers are professionals who are much better at seeing the situation from above. You may be shocked at what the lawyer suggests, but listen and follow.

You have supported your husband in his career in 7 years. In these years you haven't educated yourself or gathered experience. You need compensation for this. But your husband also needs to understand this - for his own sake. IF you support his understanding of his situation and the world in general, you are actively leading him to failure.

When we divorced, the point of departure for my husband was an excellent economy, a valuable home and a good job. Within a few years, he was in deep debt and jobless. I had been very, very lenient when sharing the house, and abstained from all payments, because I didn't want our daughter to visit a father in a shabby home. However, this all encouraged him to not take responsibility for his life. He let everything go. His boss called me because he was so negligent, and I had left the general impression that I was still responsible. You think your husband is not like that? Well neither did I - I would never, ever have imagined this could happen. The man I married was responsible, ambitious, hard-working and eventually a great father. The man I divorced was someone else.
posted by mumimor at 8:47 AM on May 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

To follow up mumimor's comment: moving from anywhere to the US is sometimes cast as a ticket to the American Dream for which one should be infinitely grateful. However, it is often a bloody big sacrifice, and that needs to be part of your thinking going forward.
posted by holgate at 11:07 AM on May 15, 2015

I'm sorry you're going through this. Not much to add to your specific question, but if you might consider staying in the US anyway, I wanted to second this:

> I wonder if the easiest way to deal with this is to just apply for citizenship; average waits right now are around 5-7 months depending on where in the country you are and getting your divorce situation sorted will take at least that long. So why not apply for citizenship right away and then you don't have to deal with the sponsorship issue? If you are able to pay attention to the kind of detail that's needed when filling out forms, you can absolutely file for citizenship yourself. Forms and instructions are on the USCIS website, and if you have questions, folks on the immigration forums can be very helpful.

This is absolutely true. Filling out the forms yourself is not that hard; as long as you can say No to all the obvious red flag questions, it's not tricky at all. If you've been an LPR for 5 years or more, you don't even need your husband's cooperation in any way, you don't need to show joint tax forms or anything like that. (For 3-5 years of LPR, you'll need his cooperation for some things, at least.)

It is somewhat expensive, though - probably about a thousand bucks to end with a US passport. And you can expect to be taxed on your worldwide income after that, so you do take on some extra obligations.
posted by RedOrGreen at 2:38 PM on May 15, 2015

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