As an undocumented immigrant with no income, what are my legal options, as far as divorce and custody? I’ve recently filed a petition for divorce after a separation. How can I pay child support, alimony, and legal fees?
I have not been retained as your attorney so I cannot give you legal advice. However, I can offer some general information that may help you.
In the state that I practice in, Arkansas, child support is determined by a chart that has been created by the Administrative Office of the Court. To determine how much a non-custodial parent (the person with whom the children are not primarily living) is going to pay in child support to the custodial parent, the court will look at how much the non-custodial parent earns each month and how many children the parties share. The court will then “go to the chart” to see how much that non-custodial parent pays. The court can deviate from the chart, but it must note in its order the reason for doing so.
In my state, all parties to any custody matters must complete an “Affidavit of Financial Means” before appearing at a hearing. The Affidavit tells the court how much each party earns, how much each party has in expenses each month, and how much each party has in debts. If you truly have no income, the court—at least in my state—would likely want you to swear under oath to that and to prove how you are supporting yourself. If you no have income but get paid “under the table,” the court might ask for a letter from your employer stating how much you bring home each pay period or copies of a paystub.
For spousal support, the courts in my state have several factors they will look at to determine in one party will pay support to the other. The primary factor to be considered in making any spousal support award is the need of one spouse and the ability of the other spouse to pay.
The following are secondary factors that the court will consider: (1) financial circumstances of both parties; (2) the couple’s past standard of living; (3) the amount and nature of the parties’ current and anticipated incomes; (4) the extent and nature of each person’s resources and assets; (5) the amount of income of each party that is spendable; (6) the health condition and medical needs of each party; (7) the duration of the marriage; (8) the amount of any child support award; and (9) the earning ability and capacity of each party. Additionally, in my state, the trial court may consider in their decision on whether to award spousal support, additional factors based in light of the particular factors of the individual case.
In my state, a court will generally award attorney’s fees to another party if one party cannot pay and they have demonstrated the need. The state courts have a lot of discretion whether deciding whether or not to make an award of attorney’s fees to a party.
Dan Pearce is an Online Editor for Lexicon, focusing on subjects related to the legal services of customers, Cordell & Cordell and Cordell Planning Partners. He has written countless pieces on MensDivorce.com, detailing the plight of men and fathers going through the divorce experience, as well as the issues seniors and their families experience throughout the estate planning journey on ElderCareLaw.com. Mr. Pearce has managed websites and helped create content, such as the Men’s Divorce Newsletter and the YouTube series, “Men’s Divorce Countdown.” He also has been a contributor on both the Men’s Divorce Podcast and ElderTalk with TuckerAllen.
Mr. Pearce assisted in fostering a Cordell Planning Partners practice area specific for Veterans, as they deal with the intricacies of their benefits while planning for the future. He also helped create the Cordell Planning Partners Resource Guide and the Cordell Planning Partners Guide to Alternative Residence Options, specific for seniors with questions regarding their needs and living arrangements.