COSTA RICA: Dennis and Susan Janik: How did this American couple end up in this bureaucratic hell of a divorce in South America?

Dennis and Susan Janik divorce: Did Costa Rico’s well-intentioned domestic violence laws get misused in the Janik case?

Costa Rican law frowns heavily on domestic abusers

Apparently, Costa Rica deals very aggressively with domestic abusers in divorce related case and Dennis Janik found out the hard way. The laws were initiated to protect women and give them more judicial protection against spousal abuse after centuries of unchecked violence against women and property in marital relations. But some believe that those same laws are sometimes misused by women who are motivated by greed against their husband. Take for example the story of American college sweethearts Dennis and Susan Janik. They met as youngsters in college, and took off after graduation to Costa Rica to live their tropical dream and open an animal sanctuary. Their business became successful and things were rosy. Till it no longer was. And Susan Janik¬†accused Dennis of spousal abuse. Here’s a summary of the story from the Dallas News: Their story reads like a soap opera; and it opens in Plano, where the couple meets. Young sweethearts, they live their dream and run off to Costa Rica to start an animal sanctuary.

Two decades later, the husband finds himself on the run from authorities and in danger of losing his livelihood. His legal problems began with the wife’s allegation of domestic violence, which in Costa Rica leads most often to removal from one’s home.

Dennis Janik hasn’t seen his animals, or his house, in almost a year.

“The misuse of well-intentioned laws have made my life hell,” Janik said in an e-mail. He feared phone conversations would reveal his location. “I look forward to the day when I can walk freely without having to constantly be looking over my shoulder.”

Dennis and Susan Janik shared a dedication to wildlife conservation and found paradise in Central America. The former Plano Senior High School students acquired Zoo Ave, a nonprofit that grew into the largest rescue center in the region and a breeding facility for endangered species. Then came long work days, diverging interests and a slow unraveling of certainty.