A version of this article first appeared in the Side Bar journal for the Litigation…
Yesterday a Washington State appeals court handed down a published decision in a case where the appellant was represented by Puget Sound Legal. The case concerned the right of an immigrant to secure legally-required financial support from her immigration sponsor using the I-864, Affidavit of Support. In our case the court held that our client was not entitled to receive alimony on account of the Affidavit of Support, but said that client has the right to sue her sponsor for support in a separate lawsuit. This was the first Washington appeals case to consider the issue.
Matter of Khan involved an Indian citizen who was married for two years to a United States citizen. The couple separated, and the husband petitioned for dissolution of marriage in January 2012. None of the pleadings in the divorce case mentioned the I-864, but the trial court considered the I-864 and ordered temporary maintenance of $2,000 based on the I-864. We appealed on behalf of the beneficiary, arguing that the trial court should not have limited the duration of the support, since it was based on the I-864 obligation which lasts potentially indefinitely. Instead, we argued, the courts should have based the duration based on the five events stated in the I-864 that end the support obligation.
The court of appeals disagreed with us and said that the trial court was not obligated to use alimony to enforce the I-864 support duty. However the court went on to say that our client is allowed to file a separate lawsuit to recover financial support. Thus the Khan decision creates a new Washington State precedent that beneficiaries are entitled to bring a lawsuit against I-864 sponsors. This is great news for beneficiaries. And because beneficiaries are entitled to recover attorney fees and the costs of litigation from I-864 sponsors, the expense of these lawsuits will be born by I-864 sponsors.
To learn more about the I-864 visit my topical blog on the subject here.