Pilot program will let moms chase deadbeat dads via Internet

A mother who does not get her monthly child support payment from an absent father on the day it is due will be be able to use the Internet to send police officers after him under a new pilot project in Cartago.

The Poder Judicial said Wednesday that the system is being set up via its Web page. If successful, the system will be extended to the rest of the country.

The new development comes at the same time that the courts have entered into an agreement with local banks to process child support (pensión alimentaria) automatically via electronic transfer.

Failing to pay child support is treated harshly in Costa Rica. Police officers have been known to show up at workplaces with the perrera, the paddy wagon, handcuff a delinquent father and then lead him off to jail. Many individuals now in custody are there for failing to pay child support.

Zarela Villanueva Monge, president of the Corte Suprema de Justicia, said this was an important tool for heads of households. The goal is to expedite the handling of these complaints rather than have the mother show up at a judicial office.

The mother has to sign up and receive access. Nearly all the recipients of child support are women, but men can be awarded these monthly payments if they have child custody and the non-custodial mother has income.

The child support is awarded in divorce cases and in cases where the child is born out of wedlock to a father who may not longer be involved with the mother. The child support payments require an initial judicial hearing.

Expats sometimes find themselves involved in such case, and they learn that they must post substantial sums of money before being allowed to leave the country.

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