Domestic violence swindling

There have been several articles on Costa Rican women taking advantage of the Domestic Violence laws lately.  Below is another article from AM Costa Rica.  I have met some of these men myself and it is very sad when they fall head over heals for someone only to be kicked out of their own house when they haven’t even done anything.  Read more below.
By Garland M. Baker Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Women are kicking their mates out of the house in record numbers in Costa Rica. Some of them are enjoying it and using the law designed to protect women against domestic violence to swindle expats. Many expats come to Costa Rica in search of a relationship and end up shooting themselves in the foot by making bad choices. Police in Heredia say women are abusing Law 8589 Article 7. The article states, “In order to protect the victims, they will be able to request, from the start of the complaint, the protective measures contemplated in the law against domestic violence, as well as the necessary precautionary measures foreseen in the penal code of procedure.”

Yes, an expat male — or any male in Costa Rica for that matter — can be tossed out of his own home by his wife or girlfriend by merely having a complaint filed against him by the woman if she says he was being abusive. Abusive, as it stands today, can mean anything, including just raising one’s voice.

Two weeks ago a woman put her expat boyfriend in jail all night when he raised his voice to her adult son — he is over 18 years of age — for popping bubble pack and painting satanic symbols on the wall. The son, who has tested positive for drugs in the past, became vocally abusive, so the expat called 911. When the police arrived, the girlfriend and her son asked the police to take the expat to jail. Officers did so without question. The woman also said that he struggled with the son and bumped into her.

The man who was jailed is the legal owner of the home. The girlfriend took a coat to the expat that night because it was very cold in Heredia. Either she had a guilty conscience or she was looking for information. While at the jail, she spoke with the police, and they gave her pointers on what she should file with the judge the next morning in court. In the morning, the police escorted the tired man from his jail cell to the court. He was lucky, he had a cell phone, and the police let him use it in the patrol car. He called an attorney who met him at court.

The judge told the man that the police would take him to his own house where he could pack two suitcases of essentials but that he had to vacate his home immediately. A police officer escorted the expat and his attorney into the house. While the retired man gathered his belongings, the police officer told the attorney that throwing men — mostly foreign men — out of their homes in Heredia was their daily routine. He said they use to chase robbers and other bad people, but now they were bored because mostly they just deal with domestic violence cases. The police officer further said: “Women in Costa Rica are taking advantage of this new law. They throw out their boyfriend and then steal their things and leave.”

Other women do not leave. They start court cases against expats for damages or palimony to wear them down to get a payoff. The lucky ones get off with the women taking a few TV sets and the women kicking Get out of the house! home computers. At least in these cases the expat can move back into his house. When the girlfriend does not leave the home, expats have a serious problem. They have to file other court cases to get the unwanted tenant out of their house. These processes can take months to years.

Usually, domestic violence injunctions — called medidas here — are for six months. Normally, a judge will not rescind a medida, and the frustrating part is that no one takes an accused man seriously. In most cases, the medidas expire before a judge ever makes a decision. In this case, that of the expat put in jail and thrown out of his house, the man is staying in a hotel. The girlfriend and her son used the words, “my husband” and “my stepdad” in their court complaint. But, in fact, they have no legal relationship with the man. This case looks like it is going to be a long one. The expat feels frustrated and helpless. He may just pack up and leave Costa Rica. Women taking advantage of the law for their personal gain overshadows the reason the laws were passed in the first place.

Many women and some men have died because of domestic violence situations. Some 25 to 30 women die a year on average. There are around 30,000 domestic violence complaints filed a year. A University of Costa Rica study said 58 percent of women interviewed in a survey experienced some kind of physical or sexual violence in the past 16 years. However, there are no firm statistics on how often women use the new laws to end a relationship and take the possessions a man must leave behind. The law, of course, only protects women. A man cannot use this law to get an abusive woman from the home.


Maid in Costa Rica

If you are planning to have a maid in Costa Rica or employees of any sort, you need to know the following applies to you.

Although all measures possible to try to characterize the relationship as out of the reach of local labor law are taken, the type of activities that will be performed certainly pose a high risk of being considered by a local Labor Court, if a dispute arises, as constituting a regular labor relationship between the parties.
If that happens, it is important to have a clear picture of the obligations that will materialize for the employer, which mainly consist in penalties for the lack of registration of the employees before the local Social Security Administration, as well as the payment of all labor related compensations to which regular employees are entitled under Costa Rican labor law, namely: vacations, Christmas bonus (also called thirteenth month), right of notice of termination and severance pay.
Below are the details for each of the above:
With regards to vacations, besides holidays and Sundays, the employee is entitled to two weeks of paid vacation for each fifty weeks worked or, in cases of contracts that terminate before such 50 weeks, a day for each month worked. Vacations can be divided, but only in two segments.
Upon termination of the employment contract, unused vacation time should be paid using as a base the average of salaries earned during the last six months.
Christmas Bonus
Employees must be paid a bonus of one month’s salary after a year of work (“aguinaldo”), or an amount proportionate to the time worked, if it less than a year.
Right of notice of termination
After three months of employment, an employee has the right to receive notice in the event of termination of employment without just cause by the employer (if notice is not given, he must be paid one month’s salary, or a fraction if he has been employed for less than one year).
Severance payment
If the worker is fired without justification after at least three months of service, the employer has to pay a severance payment whose amount increases in accordance with the time served and could be up to twenty two days per year worked, with a maximum calculated on the basis of eight years, all according to a specific calculation table indicated by the Labor Code.


Great plumber!

We had to call in a plumber this week as one of the hot water heaters went on the fritz. We felt certain we were going to have to buy a new tank or be told we needed to buy a new tank from whomever we brought into the house to look at it.

We got a referral from someone but still were a little wary that we were going to get taken advantage of and since our recent robbery we are a little more than nervous about letting anyone into the house.

We had an appointment scheduled with this plumber for around 10:00am and he showed up right on time. He went and accessed the damage in just a few minutes. Once he was done looking at it, he told me that he needed to go pick up some parts that needed to be replaced. Could I give him the money to pay for the parts…………been there, done that, have the tshirt, but since he came recommended I gave him $100 and sent him out the door, not sure if I would ever see him again.

I was relieved when an hour later he showed up with a bag full of parts and a receipt in hand. One hour later, the job was done. Of course the hot water didn’t work immediately as it had to heat up first so again I shelled out money in good faith with hopes of a good outcome.

I am happy to report that there is a great and honest plumber in Escazu that does as he says he will and charges you a fair rate for a job well done.

You will hear many stories that don’t go as well as mine did and people do in fact get ripped off every day somewhere in Costa Rica but today was not that day. That being said, Costa Rica is not any worse than the US, I hear just as many if not more of people being taken advantage of in the states and that is one of the many reasons that people are coming here.

When you find a good mechanic or a good plumber hold onto them and pass their name onto your friends. These guys depend on us as much as we depend on them. I have heard of these guys not getting paid for work that they do so the bad stuff goes both ways.


Electrical current

Two and three-prong plugs and 110V current are used here, both as seen in the U.S. European adapters and converters are hard to find; bring your own with you.

Power surges are common, especially during electrical storms (most days during the rainy season).  Hook valuable appliances like computers and televisions to a surge protector or unplug during storms.

For your computer a battery backup is recommended as well so that your computer doesn’t shut down automatically during a power outage.


113 Telephone Information

The telephone company has been told to charge by the minute for information calls to 113. The service is expected to be cheaper for users, according to the regulating agency.

The service has been free because the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad failed to produce a telephone book for 2005. But the company, known as ICE, is being allowed to start charging again on Sept. 1 now that new books are being distributed and telephone users have the option of looking in the book or calling information. The current rate is only temporary because the company is going to present additional evidence about the cost of operators and seek an adjustment.

The previous rate was 28.8 colons no mater how long. Now the rate will be 4.1 colons per minute during peak hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and 2 colons per minute from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

A colon is about two-tenths of one U.S. cent.


Internet Service

Cable modem service is available only in and around the Central Valley.  It has not yet spread to the outer regions.  The two main companies are CableTica, and Amnet.

Cable service requires the purchase of a cable modem.  Prices range from around $60.00 to $100.00, and can be paid over time on the monthly bills.

In mid June, 2005, ICE began to offer DSL service to much of the Central Valley AND the outer areas, including some beach areas.  The promise of high speed service for the whole country is pretty far behind schedule, but will get here within the next few years.  Meanwhile, beach areas and mountain  locations may now have this service.


Power and electric bills

Costs are generally reasonable. Costa Rica has the cheapest electricity rate in Central America (mostly generated by local hydro- and geothermal plants) and by far the biggest connection to the power grid in all of Central America. The voltage used is 110V AC at 60Hz, the same as in the US.

Bills can be paid in banks and supermarkets, but if you don’t pay on time, your service will be cut off, usually within two to three weeks. Although you may be able to negotiate this a little, once the service is cut off you will have to go to the main San Jose or reginal office to pay a fee to get reconnected.


How do I get mail?

Many XPats swear by private mail services. I use one myself and have since I’ve been here and love it. I have 2 mailboxes in Miami one PO Box and one Street address. Anytime I want to order a book from Amazon or a CD from Walmart I can have it shipped to the street address. (NONE OF THESE COMPANIES SHIP INTERNATIONALLY!) It is then sent to Costa Rica within a few days. It generally takes about a week to get anything that I order online. This mail service is not expensive unless you have lots of packages coming in. Our bill runs $12-$15 per month. At Christmas it has been as high as $60 for the month but never more than that.

With this particular mail service (Interlink) the mail is delivered right to our door twice a week. They also pick up any mail that I have for the states and apply the necessary postage once it gets to Miami.

You can also get a post office box from the national postal service but it is definately slower service. When you send regular mail via Costa Rica postal service, it takes 10-12 days for your mail to arrive at it’s destination in the US. It has taken the same amount of time for us to get letters here and we have to go to the postal box to pick it up, then if it’s a package onto the post office (mailboxes are not necessarily at the post office) to get it.

We have used the regular postal service for letters going out but honestly have not relied on it for mail coming into the country as we are so happy with Interlink.

By the way, a post office box in Costa Rica runs about $10.00 per year so it does have it’s advantages.


Birthday parties

If you have children, you will have birthday parties. This particular weekend we had 2 parties in one day at the same time. Time to clone the kids so you can make it to both without offending anyone. The thing about the parties here are that EVERYONE comes….the parents, the siblings and sometimes even the cousins. Parties are so much different here from what I remember in the states. Of course there has to be a theme, easy enough but then it gets complicated…you must have 2 menu’s, one for the children (usually hamburgers, hot dogs or old faithful pizza) then a sit down dinner for the parents (rice/chicken or something like it). Imagine 20-30 kids plus all their family. You need a lot of space and a LOT of patience to pull this off. Thank goodness some things are cheaper here than in the US so you don’t need to take out a loan to give a birthday party, even one as extravagant as I have described.
Two of my children are getting into their tweens so it’s not cool for mom to stay at the party THANK GOD!!! I much prefer the drop offs where you don’t have to make conversation for 3 hours with people you don’t know and often don’t speak the same language. Don’t get me wrong…people here are very sweet and very accomodating to those of us that are not completely fluent in the language but it can still be very uncomfortable to be in this type of situation for several hours when you would much rather be doing something else…anything else.

At any rate…the children do have fun and we are creating memories so I guess it’s worth it.


How it began

I entered Costa Rica as an Expatriate along with my husband John, 3 children, 3 dogs, 3 cats and 2 birds. Upon arriving in Costa Rica, we were given the name of a realtor and basically left up to our own survival skills to handle everything else on our own in a country referred to as Paradise by everyone we knew. What could possibly go wrong in a country call “Paradise”? EVERYTHING!!!

The first week were were in Costa /Rica, we lost one of our dogs and spent a week searching (not knowing any Spanish) for the disappearing dog. Being rather fanatic about this dog, I passed out over 2000 flyers all over my part of Costa Rica and spoke to every day laborer I could find looking for information. Fortunately after placing many ads in newspapers, a kind-hearted Costa Rican brought Julie home and that problem was resolved.

I found that everything was a challenge unlike anything I’d ever encountered in the United States. Taking the children to school everyday was the easiest part of my day, and then I had to go out and face the real world. With no language skills, I had to buy groceries for my family, go to the bank, shop for school supplies and so many other things that seemed totally overwhelming at the time because of the great difference in the way things are handled in Costa Rica.

As children often do get sick at the most inopportune times, all 3 of my children had to be taken to the hospital for different reasons within the first few months of our arrival. Since we had been given no references of referrals for medical care, we went to the closest emergency room even though none of the incidents would have been considered an emergency. What else were we to do with no help in sight?

This among all the other little things that occurred caused John and I to argue like cats and dogs because we didn’t know the language or our way around Costa Rica leaving me feeling helpless and alone in this strange new country.

Grocery shopping, where once was an easy task, had become a grand adventure not knowing what was what or where to find anything familiar to me. No processed foods in Costa Rica!!! Even finding clothes or school supplies for the kids became a confusing hassle. The list goes on. Everything that was taken for granted living in the US was yanked out from under us upon arriving in Costa Rica. The onset of ‘Culture Shock’ had begun.

After 6 months or so things began to settle down a bit and we began adjusting to the new culture, making friends and started enjoying our new lives. Being very active in the kids school, I found that our family was not the only one experiencing such difficulty upon arriving in Costa Rica.

I took to heart the expression to learn from my experiences and not make the same mistake twice. I knew that no one could do this on their own without support from someone that had been through the experiences themselves. This is when the idea of Guardian Angels CR Relocation Specialists (GACR) was born. I though that if I could help one person through the transition of moving to a new country I could help more, and make it less painful and confusing for soneone put in my position when I arrived.

I have been fortunate enough to be able to help many people with anything from moving their family and pets to finding an attorney for assistance with residency. I answer questions on a daily basis via email or telephone working to make the transition less difficult for the next family coming in.

After going through all of the experiences both good and bad, my family and I have fallen in love with Costa Rica and now finally understand why Costa Rica is called ‘Paradise’. Costa Rica is a beautiful country with wonderful people and customs that we have taken as our own. Because of this love of Costa Rica, it spreads to each client that GACR services and we hope that sharing our experiences will make someone else’s transition less stressful and confusing.