Saturday, May 3, 2014

Protect Florida parents who face loss of their children to foreign custody judgments


This week, the Florida state legislature passed SB 386, a bill supported by ACT! For America that will help protect Floridians from foreign law that is inconsistent with American values, such as Islamic sharia law. 

There has been a great deal of mis- and disinformation about SB 386, so we wanted to set the record straight on what the bill accomplishes.

When hopefully signed into law by Governor Scott, the bill will:
  • Help protect Florida parents who face loss of their children to a foreign custody judgment;
  • Help protect spouses who face unfair foreign judgments of divorce, spousal support, or marital property distributions;
  • Help protect parents and spouses from marital contracts (including Islamic marital contracts often named mahrs) that would force decisions regarding child custody, spousal support and marital property distributions to be decided in foreign courts or under foreign law in American courts;
  • And, help protect parents and spouses from having disputes regarding child custody, spousal support and marital property distributions from being dismissed by Florida courts in favor of being decided in foreign courts.
Although American and Florida courts have held in the past that foreign law should not be applied when the foreign law offends public policy, this concept has not previously been strengthened by statute.  Further, under current Florida child custody statutes a judge can refuse to enforce a foreign custody judgment only “if the child custody law of a foreign country violates fundamental principles of human rights.”  Unfortunately, statements by the U.S. State Department suggest that “fundamental principles of human rights” should be interpreted more narrowly than how most Americans would interpret the phrase. SB 386 authorizes a Florida judge to refuse to enforce a foreign custody judgment under the much broader standard of whether the judgment offends the public policy of Florida.
Therefore, the most important effect of the change in the law in Florida would be to protect parents from losing their children to foreign custody decrees, which has happened before.  

For example, a Maryland appellate court, in Hosain v. Malik, enforced a Pakistani custody order, issued under a sharia rule granting sole custody to the father when the child reaches the age of seven, handing a little girl who was being cared for by her mother over to the father.
Further, a California appellate court, in In re Marriage of Malak, enforced a Lebanese custody decree granting custody to the husband, even though the trial court had found that the wife had been denied due process in Lebanon, and the Lebanese Islamic court did not base its ruling upon the best interests of the child. 

SB 386 grants Florida parents the ability to dissuade Florida courts from following such shocking rulings enforcing foreign sharia judgments, and thereby not lose their children to similar rulings.

Much has been made of the fact that the SB 386 applies to family law. From a practical standpoint, this represents no real difference when compared to American Laws for American Courts laws in other states, since 80% or more of cases in US state courts in which sharia has arisen involve family law disputes.

SB 386 is a significant step forward in protecting Florida’s court systems from the infiltration of sharia law and in protecting Florida’s citizenry from all offensive forms of foreign laws and foreign legal doctrines.

We should all urge Governor Scott to sign SB 386 into law as soon as possible.

http://www.actforamerica.org/index.php/component/content/article/2884

No comments: