divorce attorneyThe Superior Court of Pennsylvania recently issued a decision that addressed an interesting interplay between family law and immigration law.

The case, Love v. Love, involved a husband who had filed an immigration affidavit of support with the Department of Homeland Security in order to help his wife, a German citizen, gain status as a permanent resident of the United States. By signing the affidavit, the husband committed to provide his wife with a minimum level of financial support equal to 125 percent of the Federal Poverty guidelines for a period of 10 (ten) years. The trial court ignored the immigration affidavit and calculated support based only on the standard support guidelines.

The Superior Court disagreed, ruling that the trial court must enforce the baseline amount of support established in the affidavit because Pennsylvania law permits a trial court to create a support order that deviates from the support guidelines, so as long as it identifies the guideline amount and specifies the reasons for the deviation. In the case at hand, the court concluded that the husband’s commitment to pay support equal to at least 125 percent of the poverty guidelines was an “exceptional circumstance that would warrant a deviation from the guideline amount.”

In calculating the amount of spousal support, the court ruled that the affidavit would only affect support calculations if the wife’s income fell below 125 percent of the poverty guidelines, and the affidavit could only be used to increase the husband’s obligations to the 125 percent level.

This case shows that it is very important that clients make their family law attorneys aware of any immigration obligations they have, as these obligations can affect support calculations in family court.  Additionally, you should consult with your lawyer prior to signing an affidavit of support for any noncitizen.