Judiciary taking over data base that can restrict expat travel

The Poder Judicial will put into service next month a computer system that contains the names of those who cannot leave the country.

The so called impedimento de salida is a judicial hold that keeps persons involved in court cases from leaving Costa Rica. It also is used by the courts to keep persons here who owe child support, called a pension alimentaria. The judiciary is supposed to be debugging the program and verifying names this month.

The obligation to do so has been delegated to the various regional judicial offices.

The new system is called Sistema de Obligados Alimentarios y Penal. It replaces a system that was under the control of the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería.

Although the names of persons who are barred from leaving the country will be on the data base, the Poder Judicial did not say that the public would have access. It said that a system has been set up to allow access to court and immigration workers.

Typically those who cannot leave the country find out when they try to do so. There is no obligation by the Poder Judicial to notify persons who have been restricted, although many know
from the type of court case in which they are involved.

This system of restriction has been used by lawyers to apply pressure to those they are bringing into court. A Florida lawyer says in a court case there that lawyers here used the system to keep him from leaving on a honeymoon and says the barrier to leaving was really an attempt to extort him.

A lawyer tried without success to restrict the movements of A.M. Costa Rica editors as a preliminary to a criminal libel case. A judge did not agree, and eventually the entire case was dismissed.

There have been some horror stories about the current system. In one case a man was barred from leaving for Panamá by land because of a 20-year-old case. He had to return to San José and spend time having his name removed from the list. This is one reason the Poder Judicial is asking court offices to verify the names on the list.

Expats who are the father of a child here or have been named by a pregnant woman as the likely father may find their names on the list if there is a child support case in the courts. In order to have their name removed from the list, a man designated as a father in a judicial proceeding has to post a large amount of money in order to be able to travel abroad. The amount may be many months of future child support.

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