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There is a lot of flexibility when resolving a meritorious I-864 claim. At the end of the day, the specifics of each case will determine the best settlement structure. Ultimately, the goal is to create as much financial security as possible for the immigrant green card holder while they try to become financially self sufficient. Here are some options, and the pros and cons of each, from the perspective of a sponsored immigrant plaintiff.
Option 1: Single Lump Sum
Pros: A lump sum brings finality, certainty and the flexibility to make major needed purchases and investments. It removes the risk of future nonpayment. You can wash your hands of the sponsor and hopefully stop interacting with him in many cases.
Cons: You are forever giving up your right to collect future support in exchange for a larger lump sum.
Option 2: Collect Arrears (or Back Support) and Establish an Ongoing Indefinite Payment Plan
Pros: Depending on the sponsor’s financial situation, this could be simply all they are capable of paying. Having a steady monthly payment could help the sponsored immigrant with budgeting for expenses. The need for payments could go on for longer than expected – payments could be indefinite.
Cons: The sponsored immigrant takes on the risk that the sponsor’s financial situation may change and payments may stop. The sponsor may also decide to stop or delay payments out of spite. Also, each payment will need to be monitored and additional enforcement actions may be required to enforce missed or insufficient payments – these can become major life distractions.
Option 3: Blending Options 1 & 2 (A Partial Lump Sum & Some Finite Additional Payments)
This option provides for a large initial payment followed by a fixed and finite number of additional smaller payments.
Pros: This provides a large initial payment for immediate needs. This could enable the sponsor to make a larger total payment by spreading out the payments. Since later payments are finite (they will end at some point) the risk of default is lower.
Cons: After the initial payment, monitoring the payments will be necessary. Also, the sponsor could default or pay less than agreed to which will require additional enforcement procedures. You give up the right to indefinite support.
These options are not exhaustive and there may be other factors to consider such as interest on deferred payments and contractual attorneys fees owed by the sponsor. This short description is just meant to give the reader a sense of the possibilities and that one size does not fit all.