An abused client in a VAWA case has to prove to USCIS that they suffered extreme cruelty from their U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident family member. The stories they share and the documents they have to obtain are never kind towards the abuser – for obvious reasons.
In an I-751 Waiver case, there’s either been abuse or divorce, both of which often leave strong negative feelings between former spouses.
Many times, clients looking for representation in these types of cases are referred to me from other attorneys. For them, it’s a conflict of interest pursuing a VAWA or I-751 Waiver case when they originally represented a seemingly happy couple together.
When the relationship ends – through abuse or divorce – that attorney cannot then turn around and represent the foreign national in a VAWA or I‑751 Waiver case, who will say difficult, harsh things about the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident the attorney once represented, too.
Lately, though, I’ve had the reverse situation happen.
I’ve had several individuals either consult or actually retain me, to assist with filing a VAWA case on their behalf. We talked about the psychological damage, the violence, the threats, the constant mental abuse inflicted upon them by their U.S. citizen spouses. And then within a few weeks, the individual tells me that they’ve reconciled and now want to file their green card case together with their spouse and want me to represent them.
I have to tell them “no” and withdraw entirely from the case. I also tell them that I cannot be their attorney in any future case – even if they separate from their spouse in the future again.
I cannot represent the couple together because I know too much negative information about the U.S. citizen. I especially cannot represent the couple if I was already hired to work on a VAWA case.
Just like an attorney cannot go from representing a couple together to representing the only one when things go bad, I cannot go from representing one when things are bad to represent two when things are supposedly great.
I know that statistically speaking it takes someone seven times before they leave an abuser for good. It’s hard to give up on someone you love. But, it’s very possible that a few weeks later, these couples will be broken up again, leaving these individuals in the same position, but now without me as their attorney.
Unfortunately, it’s too difficult to go back and forth with cases. Once someone tells me they’re back together with their spouse, I have to close their case. And then it’s closed for good. If they come back a few weeks later saying their spouse really hasn’t changed and they want to re-hire me for a VAWA case, I have to decline.
Sometimes it’s better to get the heart and soul sorted out before spending money on attorneys and immigration fees.