United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
EVELYN A. SANTANA, f/k/a EVELYN A. HATCH, D.P.C.S., N.R.C.S, J.A.C.S., Plaintiffs,
BILLY R. HATCH, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
WILLIAM M. CONLEY District Judge
April 29, 2016, this court granted a motion for partial
summary judgment filed by plaintiff Evelyn Santana and her
minor children, claiming that defendant Billy Hatch breached
his duty to support them at 125% of the federal poverty level
under the I-864 affidavits of support he signed. The court
further concluded that plaintiffs were entitled to damages in
the amount of $15, 218.50 for 2013 and $11, 177.50 for 2014.
Finally, the court directed the parties to submit additional
evidence and briefing regarding the appropriate amount of
damages plaintiffs were owed for 2012, as well as
any form of specific performance that might be ordered. After
reviewing the parties' responses, the court concludes
that plaintiffs are entitled to $5, 064.97 in damages for
2012, as well as an order for specific performance requiring
defendant to maintain plaintiffs at 125% of the poverty level
on an annual basis, as set forth in more detail below.
in cases like this one are generally determined by comparing
the required level of support owed by defendant (125% of the
poverty level) with plaintiffs' income for a given
period. In 2012, plaintiffs' household income was $18,
293.00. The 125% poverty level for a family of four for that
year was $28, 812.50. In 2012, however, plaintiffs lived with
defendant from January 1, 2012 until May 1, 2012, or 121 days
out of 366 days.
April 29 order, the court explained that the fairest way to
calculate damages for 2012 would be to compare a prorated
125% poverty level, based on the portion of the year in which
the parties were separated, with the income plaintiffs
actually earned after their separation. Any income
plaintiffs' earned before they were separated, during the
first 121 days of 2012, would be considered as contribution
to shared household expenses, barring evidence to the
contrary. The problem was that plaintiffs submitted no
evidence indicating when they earned income during
2012, so it was impossible to determine how their total
income for that year should be apportioned. Accordingly, the
court directed the parties to submit further evidence and
argument on the issue.
parties responded, stating that they agree with the
court's proposed formula for calculating damages for
2012. (Dkt. ##24, 27.) Plaintiffs further submitted evidence
showing that their income from January 1, 2012 through April
30, 2012 was $4, 070.97, and the amount plaintiffs earned
during the remainder of the year was $14, 222.03. Defendant
does not dispute these amounts. The prorated amount of 125%
of the poverty level for the same period (May 1 through
December 31) is $19, 287. The difference between the prorated
125% poverty level and amount of plaintiffs' earned
income is $5, 064.97 post-separation. Accordingly, plaintiffs
are entitled to $5, 064.97 in damages for 2012.
addition to damages for defendant's past failure to
provide the required support, plaintiffs seek specific
performance requiring defendant to support them at 125% of
the federal poverty level for their household going forward
until one of the terminating conditions set forth in the
I-864 affidavits is met. In its April 29 order, the court
concluded that specific performance may be appropriate, but
that it was not clear what form specific performance should
take in this case. In particular, plaintiffs' earned
income appears to vary from month-to-month and year-to-year,
making it difficult for defendant to determine his obligation
on a bi-weekly or even a monthly basis. Thus, the court
directed the parties to provide input as to the most
efficient means by which defendant may fulfill his
obligations to plaintiffs.
response, defendant proposes that any order for specific
performance be on a yearly basis, requiring plaintiffs to
submit proof of household income at the end of each year, the
federal poverty level for that year, and a calculation as to
the amount owed. Any amount defendant owes to plaintiffs
would then be repaid over the course of the following year in
their part, plaintiffs similarly propose that performance be
ordered on a yearly basis as a general rule, particularly
because plaintiffs are currently financially stable enough to
maintain their household above the poverty level. In
contrast, however, plaintiffs further propose that they be
allowed to provide notice of a need for specific performance
in the event that plaintiffs find themselves below 125% of
the poverty level for a period of more than 3 consecutive
months. Similarly, they propose that in that event, defendant
would be required to provide monthly payments until such time
as plaintiffs' monthly income rises above the 125% level
the circumstances, the court concludes that an order of
specific performance on a yearly basis is appropriate.
Plaintiffs have shown the determination and ability to earn
income, as well as support themselves, despite
defendant's obligations to provide minimal support.
Currently, Evelyn Santana has a steady job that provides
income sufficient to keep her and her family above 125% of
the poverty level. (See Santana Aff. ¶ 4, dkt.
#26.) Thus, at least as of now, there appears to be no
justification for requiring defendant to make specific
performance on a monthly or bi-weekly basis. On the contrary,
as defendant points out, such a requirement could
lead to an overpayment to plaintiffs.
similar reasons, the court declines plaintiffs'
suggestion that they be given the option of requesting
specific performance if their income drops below the 125%
poverty level for more than 3 months. Such an option could
also lead to overpayments and complications, depending on
plaintiffs' income in the previous or subsequent months.
Finally, plaintiffs have not shown that such relief is
necessary under the circumstances.
defendant will be required to maintain plaintiffs at 125% of
the federal poverty level, adjusted annually as shown at
http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/index.shtml, until: (1)
defendant's death; (2) plaintiffs' death; (3)
plaintiffs become U.S. citizens; (4) plaintiffs can be
credited with 40 quarters of work as defined in 8 U.S.C.
§ 1183a(3); or (5) plaintiffs depart the United States
permanently. (See I-864 Affidavits, dkt. #11-1 -
11-4). In order to accomplish this, plaintiffs will be
required to provide defendant proof of household income by
March 1 of each year, along with the federal poverty level
for the corresponding year and the specific amount of support
they believe is owed by defendant. Defendant will be required
to pay any amount owed to plaintiffs, in equal monthly
installments, by December 31st of the ...