Divorces can have far reaching effects on naturalization, and one possible effect concerns nonpayment of child support.

Most often this problem surfaces when a permanent resident files  citizenship without the assistance of an immigration attorney. After all,  how complicated can it be to fill out the government form, right? Unfortunately, it is not just about filling in the form. Among other considerations, there is the matter of demonstrating “good moral character.” While there is no statutory or regulatory definition, the term generally means character that measures up to the standards of average citizens of the community in which the applicant resides.

Vague enough? Well, there are some helpful guidelines.

An applicant for naturalization who willfully fails or refuses to support dependents will be found to lack good moral character, unless there are extenuating circumstances. Willful failure may include someone who has the ability to pay child support, but simply refuses to do so, or someone who fails to provide support over a long period of time.

However, it is possible to establish extenuating circumstances affecting one’s ability to pay child support  where the applicant is out of work, or has made a reasonable effort to pay.

If an applicant is delinquent in his or her child support payments prior to filing an application or has been denied on this basis and has filed an N-336 Request for a Hearing, every effort should be made to bring payment current during the statutory period, or at least demonstrate a history of past payments or a commitment to bring the payments up to date.

It may be a stretch in most cases, but an additional step is to present an affidavit from a former spouse in order to establish good moral character.

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