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Heavy-handed judges complicate domestic cases

by Garland M Baker on July 19, 2010

The intention of Costa Rica’s domestic violence laws is to protect — especially women — in cases of aggression or violence against a mate.

However, the law has been transformed into a law that creates a legal license to steal. Judges have not helped the situation at all. There are around 18 different medidas cautelares. This would translate into protective measures or injunctions in English. Most judges use only the harshest one, six months of complete separation of the parties involved. This is true even though in many domestic violence cases the charges are complete lies.

After police eject a husband from his home even if the allegations are fabricated, a court hearing may not take place for months.

The six-month protective measure actually has provoked violence, and a mate thrown out of the house sometimes goes back in violation of the restriction and does bodily harm to the spouse. If nothing else, the law as it is normally applied breaks down a family in direct violation of the Constitution and tears marriages apart.

Actually there is something in the domestic violence law most people do not know. The law states: El Estado procurará ofrecer alternativas de tratamiento y rehabilitación a las personas agresoras, tomando en cuenta, entre otras, su doble condición de víctimas y de agresoras.

This means the state shall offer alternatives to people entwined in a domestic violence case and offer assistance to both the victims and aggressors. This part of the law is hardly ever even offered to the parties of a domestic violence case according to four attorneys when it is an obligation of the state to do so.

The intention of the alimony and child support laws is to provide a source of income for children, spouses, and the elderly. The law also covers cases where people are incapable of working due to illness or a handicap. However, this law, too, has been in some many cases been distorted into a way to steal from another.

By filing questionable paperwork and receipts, a woman and her lawyer can convince a judge to set a very high alimony and child support payment, particularly if the husband involved is an expat. One judge in a decree that he felt that based on the receipts and other paperwork the expat could afford to pay the alimony and child support.

This is in direct violation of several key constitutional cases which state a judge cannot set an alimony or child support amount without concrete and factual information because the non-payment of either is an offense that can mean jail time. If the spouse does not pay the amount set by the judge, he goes to jail. Many times the amount is ridiculous because the primary source of facts about the husband’s income come from the wife and her lawyer.

Some expats caught up in this nightmare who cannot not pay end up leaving the country, even if they have children here. Others go into hiding or worse. Most do not have the financial recourses or legal knowledge to fight, especially when they are battling against laws that have been adulterated.

One poor expat was thrown out of his house without notice by a women and her daughter on trumped up charges of domestic violence, and now the wife has filed for alimony using his United States pension as proof he can pay it.

When an experienced legal professional looked at the facts of one case, it appeared more than just the woman was involved in getting what she wanted. She and her legal team obviously had the right contacts.

It is important to note that cases against expats flow differently than they do for local Costa Ricans. Usually, in a case of domestic violence, alimony and child support against a local, the whole family gets involved including the family’s pastor or priest. Normally, most expats do not have a big family support group in Costa Rica and are at a disadvantage. In an interview with three Costa Ricans caught up in a domestic violence and alimony case, all said that the problems were ultimately worked out inside the family.

This does not mean that Ticos do not get shafted by the laws too. They do. The primary cases where exorbitant alimonies were set by judges with little or no factual information now set a precedent to change the jurisprudence of the past.

The moral of the story, expats need to understand the domestic violence, alimony and child support laws in Costa Rica. Most do not. They need to understand the application of the laws are relentless. In many cases most expats who end up in court lose everything they own.

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