Divorce can be a difficult process on its own, but when you have citizenship concerns it can become even more daunting. However, if you arm yourself with knowledge about your situation you can properly prepare yourself for what to expect.
Is there any difference in the divorce proceedings or parental rights hearings if I am not a U.S. citizen or if I have recently become a U.S. citizen?
The short answer is no! The proceedings should continue exactly as they would if there were no citizenship concerns. If you have recently become a citizen, there are no concerns as to the status of your citizenship, because your citizen status cannot be taken away due to your divorce.
Will divorce affect my green card status?
This question has a more complicated answer than the first! To understand how divorce might affect your citizenship status, you first have to understand how the citizenship process works. To become a citizen, you must have a green card. In order to get that green card, through marriage, immigration officials must confirm that your marriage is a “bona fide” marriage. This just means it cannot be a marriage for citizenship. After you get your green card, you have to retain it for a certain amount of time, usually 5 years, to gain your citizenship. However, this time shortens from 5 years to 3 years if you are married to a U.S. citizen. If you do file for divorce before the 3 years is up, you will not have your green card revoked, however you will have to wait the 5-year waiting period for citizenship, as opposed to the 3-year waiting period when you are married to a U.S. citizen. This also holds true if you have been married longer than 3 years, but less than 5 years, and have not yet filed for citizenship. If you have already had your green card for 5 years before you file for divorce, however, the divorce will have no bearing on when or if you can file for citizenship.
If the divorce is contentious and your ex-spouse claims that the marriage was not bona fide, the case can become a little bit more difficult. If you already have citizenship, this will not affect your citizenship. If you still have your green card, you will just have to prove that the marriage is or was bona fide, either by what immigration officials have already proven or by your own evidence, to continue in the citizenship process.
What if I am undocumented? Can I still get a divorce?
If you are undocumented, you can still get a divorce and proceedings will continue as they would for any other divorce case. It is important to note, though, that anything you say in divorce court can also be used against you in immigration court. Because of that, if you are undocumented, it is wise to retain an immigration attorney as well as a divorce attorney in the case that you do want to file for divorce. Being undocumented could also make parenting agreements difficult, especially if you are deported or leave the United States. Again, in this case it is important to retain an immigration attorney, as well as a divorce attorney, to protect your parental rights.