Child Support and Custody

Costa Rica Child Support and Custody

Child Support after Separation or Divorce

On average, courts grant child support in the amount of 50,000 to 200,000 colones per child per month. The exact amount will depend on a myriad of factors, which the court will have to examine very carefully in order to be able to come up with a fair amount. The paying spouse will have to provide 13 months' worth of child support each year, as this includes the Aguinaldo or Christmas Bonus mandated by Costa Rican law. There is no formula or set calculation to arrive at the amount, each Judge considers the income and expenses in each case. The court takes into account expenses for food, housing, clothing, education, entertainment, Utilities, transportation, and other expenses.

Costa Rica's child support laws are quite strict and favorable for women and children. Police, with a court order, will track down a child's parent if he or she has been found lacking in their child support obligations. They can put the person in jail if he or she does not pay the legally court ordered child support. Usually, the police will hold the person at the police station for a time so that the person can have the amount paid without having to go to jail. If not, they will stay in jail until they are able to bring the payments up to date. The maximum jail time is six months.

In the event that the parent wants to leave the country after a court ordered child support payment, the parent will not be allowed to leave until he or she has paid all current child support payments and deposited 13 months of payments with the court. This requirement can be waived if the other party agrees that it does not have to be paid and notifies the Judge that they give permission to leave the country. Costa Rica has extradition agreements with many countries when it comes to finding people who have escaped their child support and alimony duties by leaving Costa Rica.

Child Custody and Visitation

The Costa Rica courts in most cases award custody of children to the mother, as do most countries.

However, in instances where it is proved that the mother might be violent, have a drug abuse problem, neglecting the children, have a mental illness, abandoned the children, is incarcerated, is abusive to the children, or be unsuitable to keep custody of children, the court will award custody to the father or a family member. Joint physical custody with the other partner, so that they have visitation rights, is almost always awarded. Most joint custody involves alternate days or weeks, and alternate holidays. When one parent lives outside of Costa Rica the other party must give permission for the child to leave the country. The court can also order the permission to be given to leave the country. The Costa Rican Family Law is extremely strict and the court will always rule in the best benefit for the children.

DNA Testing

Not all child support cases in Costa Rica have to do with divorce or separation. There are quite a number of women seeking child support from men who they believe is the biological father of their child but they are not married to him.

There are a couple of possible scenarios of how such demands can go. First, the identified father might just admit paternity and provide child support without any problems. Second, the supposed father might deny paternity, which is what typically happens. In this case, the woman can demand a DNA test which is paid for by the Costa Rican Judicial system. If the test confirms the man's paternity, he will naturally be obligated to pay child support and add his last name to the birth certificate. If the man refuses to take the test, this is also seen as a confirmation of his paternity and he will also be required by Costa Rican law to provide child support but will lose visitation rights. Also, the court will bill him for the cost of the test. If he is not the father, he can sue the mother for false accusation. If the mother does not appear for the test, then the child keeps the mother's last names.

If the mother is married at the time of the birth her husband's name is included as the father on the birth certificate, without exception. If she is not married then most men put their name on the birth certificate voluntarily and acknowledge that they are the father of the child. Very few men have been required to have a DNA test.

Legal Representation

Going through a divorce is usually a very emotional and stressful process, and even more so when there are children involved. We cannot eliminate all the pain and sadness that accompanies these proceedings but what we can do is to give you the best legal representation that you can have and make sure the process is finished as justly and quickly as possible.

Our lawyers have had years of experience in family law and we have handled some very complicated cases of child support and custody. Whether you are a plaintiff or a defendant in a child support and custody case, and whether you are a Costa Rican resident or not, we guarantee that we will examine your case thoroughly and give you the best legal support that we possibly can. Whatever questions you may have, feel free to call us up and we will give you sound legal advice and help you get through this complex process with as little stress as possible.

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