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Saturday, December 9, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Saturday, December 9, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Infidelity Doesn’t Entitle Serbian to Removal Relief

(CN) - The 7th Circuit declined to apply the battered spouse provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act to a Serbian man who claimed his ex-wife subjected him to "extreme cruelty" by leaving him for another man.

Zvonko Stepanovic moved to the United States in 1997 on a six-month visitor visa. He became a self-employed trucker and lived in Chicago, where he met Sonja Jovanovic, a U.S. citizen working in a Serbian restaurant.

In 2002, authorities detained Stepanovic in Washington for overstaying his visa and sought to have him deported. He posted bond, returned to Chicago and married Jovanovic about a month later. He said he would try to stay in the country based on his marriage to a U.S. citizen.

But in November 2003, Jovanovic locked him out of the apartment and threatened to call police if he didn't leave. They eventually divorced.

Stepanovic reshaped his argument for staying in the country, claiming his wife had been cheating on him with a man she later married after their divorce, causing him significant mental emotional and emotional distress. He said her actions amounted to "extreme cruelty" under the Act's cancellation of removal for battered spouses.

The federal appeals court in Chicago deferred to the Board of Immigration Appeals' finding that Stepanovic's situation did not amount to "extreme cruelty."

"We agree with the 5th, 6th and 10th Circuits that the extreme cruelty determination is discretionary," Judge Kanne wrote, "and we may not review the manner in which the BIA exercises its discretion."

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