Steve Summers married Mexico-born Evangelina Zapata, and helped her obtain U.S. residency; he also signed an affidavit vowing to support her so that she would not become a “public charge” (someone who relies on government assistance to pay for food and bills).

Now, after their divorce four years ago, the affidavit is being held up by Zapata in her case to get Summers to pay her alimony. She has sued Summers in federal court for breaking the contract to support her at 125 percent of the poverty level and claims he is in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

In immigration law, the contract is called the I-864 affidavit, but in divorce matters, it is rarely enforced.

Lawyers that specialize in immigration law say they try to impress upon clients the serious responsibilities that come with signing an affidavit of support.

Zapata’s lawsuit calls for the petitioner to agree to support the immigrant at 125 percent of the federal poverty level unless the foreign national becomes a U.S. citizen, or works for roughly 10 years

in a job through which they pay into the Social Security system, or fails to keep the permanent legal residency status.

According to Zapata’s lawsuit, she arrived in the United States from Mexico in 2003, nearly a year after Summers petitioned for her to gain admission to this country through a “K visa,” also known as a fiancée visa. Summers filed the affidavit of support as part of the K visa application, the suit said. The suit said that the K visa covered her and “her children.”

The couple divorced in 2009. Zapata then remarried and divorced a second time.

Some argue that the law is flawed because it allows immigrants to languish indefinitely without working or becoming naturalized and they come to expect lifetime support from the U.S. citizen.

She and Summers have a young daughter, however Summers has custody of the child.