The Supreme Court last week let stand a lower court's decision that a Russian alien, once married to an American citizen, was owed alimony and serious legal fees despite a pending charge in state court that the alien had molested the citizen’s granddaughter.
The decision underlined the dangers that citizens face when marrying aliens, and how our courts will, in effect, punish the citizens for making wrong decisions.
Some years ago an Alabama woman, Tatiana Kuznitsnyna, presumably of Russian or Ukrainian descent, married an alien from Russia, Valentin Belevich. Kuznitsnyna and her daughter, Klavdia Thomas, both signed papers with the Department of Homeland Security assuring the government that they would, if need be, support Belevich, so that he would not become an economic burden on the U.S. Apparently, the bride’s own income was not sufficient to make this pledge, so she enlisted her daughter as a co-sponsor. (All of this suggests that the bride was both a grandmother and had a low income, hardly a favorable marital formula, but good enough for Belevich.)
The marriage collapsed and the lady and her daughter refused to pay Belevich the difference between his (low) earnings and 125 percent of poverty level, as they had agreed in the DHS documents. Belevich then went into both federal district court and the federal bankruptcy court to get what he regarded as owed to him, winning most of the court battles.
Eventually the two women, representing themselves, appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit and were told that what Belevich had done (or not done) was not to be considered, and that their obligation to Belevich had to be met unless he lost his green card (that the marriage had provided) and left the nation or became a citizen (something he avoided), worked the equivalent of 10 years, got a new affidavit of support, or died. That is the decision the Supreme Court effectively upheld by rejecting the plaintiffs' appeal.
The Law 360 report said, without further explanation, “Thomas and Kuznitsnyna said that Belevich was to have completed his 40 quarters of working in the U.S. on April 9, 2022.”
That would seem to suggest that any financial obligations to him would end on that date — the dispute is over past debts. The bankruptcy court awarded Belevich about $25,000 in back pay, but the two women also had to pay over $70,000 in his legal fees.
I am not a lawyer, but sense that had the Alabama grandmother had a bad marriage with a citizen, no Alabama judge would order her to pay alimony to a single male. Further, I am sure that no judge, anywhere in the nation, would order the woman’s daughter to pay money to her mother’s ex.
In other words, marriage is always a gamble (I have a lovely one now, but had a bad one decades ago), but you risk losing more by marrying an alien than by marrying a fellow citizen or a green card holder. Much more.
While it is useful to the nation, generally, that these public-charge laws regarding immigrants be in effect, it can be devastating to the individual citizens involved, and in this case to the citizen’s adult child.
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals decision, which the U.S. Supreme Court chose not to take up, is here.