Immigration Support Affidavit Not Dischargeable in Bankruptcy

Chapter 7 bankruptcy debtors may not discharge certain debts including debts related to alimony, child support, and other domestic support obligations. In almost all instances domestic support obligations arise out of a civil divorce proceeding. A recent Orlando bankruptcy case considered domestic support obligations based upon an immigration matter which was litigated in federal district court.

An U.S. citizen and bankruptcy debtor had placed an ad in a Ukraninian newspaper seeking a Russian wife. He selected a woman to marry and brought her int this country with a “fiancé visa.” As a precondition to his fiance’s immigration the debtor signed an Affidavit of Support wherein he agree to provided the immigrant wife with support necessary to maintain her income at no less than 125 percent of Federal poverty guidelines. The public policy of the Affidavit is to prevent inadmissible immigrants from becoming a public burden by requiring their sponsor to pledge support.

The debtor divorced his new Russian wife. The divorce decree awarded alimony, but the decree did not mention obligations due under the Affidavit of Support. The former wife sued in federal court for enforcement of the affidavit of support. The federal court awarded a judgment against the former husband for over $100,000 for failure to make payments due under the affidavit.

The ex-husband filed bankruptcy and sought to discharge the judgment based upon the Affidavit of Support. He argued that the judgment arising from the immigration proceeding was not the type of non-dischargeable domestic support contemplated by the bankruptcy law.

The bankruptcy court held that the $100,000 was not dischargeable in Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The court said that the intent of the parties signing the Affidavit, and the intent of the government, was to ensure that the husband who sponsored the immigration continued to provide minimal financial support to his invited bride. The court said that permitting this debtor to discharge the Affidavit of Support judgment would contravene the bankruptcy policy of subordinating the debtor’s fresh start to the more compelling interest of legitimate support obligations. The case is In re Denver Cook. 6:11-14734