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Theatrical setup puts expat out on street

by Garland M Baker on March 2, 2009

Increasing deliberate abuse of Costa Rica’s domestic-violence laws is affecting many, even senior expats. A 72-year-old man — who is blind in one eye — was thrown out of a home last week in a theatrical production put by his stepdaughter. Now his wife wants the house they once shared for herself.

The so-called domestic violence event was staged, a complete fabrication. However, that did not matter to the police. The man was thrown out of the house, having nowhere else to go.

Here is the incredible story:

About a year and half ago, the older man began getting his affairs in order because of his age. He was separated from his wife and was living in one of the two houses they had bought together. Before separating, the expat helped his wife obtain training for work to ensure her livelihood in case of his death.

In Costa Rica, as well as in many other countries in the world, assets are divided equally during a divorce. However, this man did not want a divorce; he was happy with just the separation. He just wanted to live out his days in the house to which he had become accustomed. He decided to ask his wife for an usufruct (an occupancy right), and went to an attorney to begin the paperwork.

When the lawyer began compiling the information, which consisted of simple diligence, something surprising popped up. It turned out that the man’s wife was in the process of secretly divorcing and evicting him,from the house he was living in,claiming it was part of her assets when they got married.

Upon learning of his wife’s agenda, the man filed a divorce claim too, to protect himself and hopefully suspend the eviction process.

Last Thursday, they estranged couple had to attend a hearing in court. The expat had always attended every hearing up to that day, but this time he decided to ask his attorney to represent him. He said he would stay home and sleep in.

Around 7 a.m. or so, he heard banging and drilling coming from the front gate. He thought it was his next-door neighbor working on their house, so he decided to stay in bed and ignore the noise. After a short while, the noise got so loud that he decided to go next door and complain. The expat’s house had an inner living room area and an outer patio that once was a carport.

When he opened the front door separating both areas, he was shocked. Two men had forced their way into the patio area, and his stepdaughter had brought her things in some boxes and spread them around the patio. She thought the expat was at the hearing. When she saw him, she got startled and started screaming at the top of her lungs, he said.

No one really knows who ended up calling the police. He suspects the police arrived as a result of a call made by someone involved in the farce. The police prepared a report based on the woman’s testimony, which stated that she and her child were being abused by the expat. Once the report was completed and the police left, the stepdaughter packed up her stuff and left the house too. She went directly to the nearest Domestic Violence Court and showed the police report to a judge, determined to get an immediate eviction order for the expat, despite the fact that she was not living in the dwelling.

The older man called another lawyer for help because the original one was in court at the hearing. The new lawyer, a woman, knew what would follow, according to her experience with the law. She got in her car with two witnesses and went to the house to wait for the authorities, who were coming to throw the man out of the dwelling.

The female lawyer tried everything possible to explain to the authorities that the whole situation was a setup, but they said they could do nothing about it; they had to execute the eviction order sent by the domestic-violence judge.

The man was granted an hour to collect his belongings; meanwhile, some of the policewomen in the group — they wear special badges indicating they specialize in domestic violence — started talking with the attorney, telling her that setups like that one are awfully common. Once they assisted a woman who was clearly using domestic violence laws to get her husband out to the house while her boyfriend was waiting for her in bed.

What happened that Thursday is simple: the daughter of a Costa Rican woman criminally enforced domestic-violence laws to evict an innocent man. Neither of them had lived in the home for at least two years.

When the man went to the criminal court to file a complaint, the court clerk looked at him and said in Spanish, “I cannot accuse your wife’s daughter for throwing you out, doing that is not illegal. Maybe I can write that she broke the locks on your door and that caused you damages.”

The expat’s new hearing is Tuesday, and he plans to get his say. He hopes the court can supply a translator, but it is unlikely, since the judicial system has been short of translators these days. Due to that, his hearing may be postponed. He says that even if he eventually recovered the house, he would not move back in. He is afraid of what his own family could do next.

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