Divorce, particularly when there are children involved, is never easy. However, if your spouse is a U.S. citizen and you have permanent resident status and a green card based on your marriage, you likely have some questions about your rights in the divorce and what this will mean for your ability to remain in the U.S. legally.
It’s likely, unless you’re still under conditional status (which lasts two years), that you have no reason to be concerned. Even if your spouse refuses to complete the form to remove the conditions before your conditional green card expires, there are options to get spousal consent waived.
If your green card is no longer conditional, divorce shouldn’t affect your status unless your spouse tries to claim you have a sham marriage just for the purpose of getting the card. However, if they did that, they’d be setting themselves up for legal consequences. If you got your green card separate from your marriage (for example, because of your work or other family members), divorce won’t affect it.
What about child custody rights?
It’s always best when spouses can work out child custody agreements outside of court. However, even if a judge has to make the decisions, permanent resident status should have no relevance to someone’s parenting rights unless they’re in danger of being deported for criminal activity or fraud.
If a permanent resident parent expresses interest in moving out of the U.S. with their children or if the other parent is concerned about that parent taking their children abroad without their permission, they may seek to have language added to the custody order around that. It shouldn’t affect your custody rights if there’s no evidence that you intend to run away with the kids.
Divorce agreements, including child custody orders, are typically no different when a spouse is a permanent resident than for other couples. Of course, each divorce is highly unique. If you have any concerns about anything your soon-to-be ex may do to interfere with any of your rights as you divorce, it’s crucial to bring that to the attention of your legal team early on. It’s better to prepare for worst-case scenarios that don’t occur than to be caught off guard. With experienced legal guidance, you’ll have far less to worry about.