The Supreme Court last week upheld a lower court’s decision that a Russian foreigner who was once married to an American citizen was owed alimony and substantial legal fees, despite a pending charge in a state court that the foreigner was the citizen’s granddaughter had molested.
The decision underscored the dangers citizens face when marrying foreigners and how our courts will actually punish citizens for wrong decisions.
A few years ago, a woman from Alabama, Tatiana Kuznitsnyna, believed to be of Russian or Ukrainian descent, married a foreigner from Russia, Valentin Belevich. Kuznitsnyna and her daughter Klavdia Thomas both signed papers with the Department of Homeland Security, assuring the government that if necessary they would support Belevich to prevent him from becoming an economic burden on the United States. Apparently, the bride’s own income was not enough for this commitment, so she hired her daughter as a co-sponsor. (All this suggests that the bride was a grandmother and had a low income, hardly a favorable marriage formula, but good enough for Belevich.)
The marriage failed, and the lady and her daughter refused to pay Belevich the difference between his (low) income and 125 percent of the poverty line, as agreed in the DHS documents. Belevich then went to both federal district court and federal bankruptcy court to get what he deemed owed to him and won most of the court cases.
Eventually, the two women, who were representing themselves, appealed to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit and were told that what Belevich had done (or not done) should not be considered and that their obligation to Belevich had to be fulfilled unless he lost his green card (which marriage had bestowed upon him) and left the nation or became a citizen (which he avoided), worked the equivalent of 10 years, obtained a new affidavit, or died. That’s the decision that the Supreme Court effectively upheld, dismissing the plaintiffs’ appeal.
The Law 360 report said without further explanation, “Thomas and Kuznitsnyna said that Belevich should have completed his 40th quarter of employment in the United States on April 9, 2022.”
This seems to indicate that all financial obligations to him would end on that date – the dispute revolves around past debts. The bankruptcy court awarded Belevich about $25,000 in back payment, but the two women also had to pay over $70,000 in legal fees.
I’m not an attorney, but I have a feeling that if the Alabama grandmother had a bad marriage to a commoner, no judge in Alabama would order her to pay child support to a single man. Also, I’m sure no judge anywhere in the country 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 nice one now, but decades ago I had a bad one), but you risk losing more by marrying an alien than by marrying a fellow citizen or a green card holder marry. Much more.
While it is generally beneficial to the nation that these public prosecution laws are in effect with respect to immigrants, it can be devastating to the individual citizen involved and, in this case, the citizen’s adult child.
The 11th Circuit Court decision that the US Supreme Court refused to accept is here.