Husband Must Support His Foreign Wife
In the case of Liu v. Mund, an American man married a much younger Chinese woman in China. When they decided to move to the U.S. two years later, Husband was informed that Wife could not be admitted to the U.S. as a permanent resident, based on their marriage, unless he signed an “I-864 affidavit” agreeing to support Wife at 125% of the poverty level even if they later divorced. Husband signed the affidavit and the couple moved to Wisconsin. Two years later, they were divorced in Wisconsin Trial Court. In accordance with Wisconsin law, Trial Court ordered Husband to pay spousal support of $500 per month to Wife contingent on proof that Wife made at least four job applications per month, but could not find work. Neither Trial Court nor parties’ divorce judgment mentioned the I-864 affidavit.
Husband subsequently failed to pay spousal support, claiming that Wife hadn’t looked for work. Wife then filed suit in U.S. District Court for Western District of Wisconsin, seeking to enforce Husband’s support obligation under I-864 affidavit. District Court, however, found that Wife was not entitled to support under that affidavit because she failed to look for work.
Wife appealed, and U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has now reversed District Court’s decision. Circuit Court has ruled that (1) 8 U.S.C. 1183a(a)(3)(A), which governs I-864 affidavits, seeks to prevent immigrants from becoming public charges, but lists several conditions that excuse support obligations; (2) the immigrant’s failure to seek work (or otherwise mitigate damages) is not among the excusing conditions; (3) such a condition should not be added by judicial fiat; and (4) adding such a condition would benefit sponsors of immigrants, but not the taxpayers and charitable organizations that the statute was designed to benefit. Circuit Court has ruled that District Court erred by declining to enforce Husband’s I-684 support obligation on the basis that Wife failed to look for work.