Courts in California and other states across the country are faced with deciding just how much influence a biological parent’s cultural heritage and the laws applicable to that heritage should have when deciding matters of child custody. In the majority of cases, the courts have been asked to consider Sharia law, or Islamic law, when deciding cases of Muslim family issues such as custody and visitation. As more cases are filed seeking the courts consideration of international laws that affect family decisions, this issue is sure to become more and more complicated.
The legislature in more than half of the states in the US reviewed bills that would limit a court’s consideration of religious or international law when deciding cases at the state court level. Six states enacted those bills, and one state specifically prohibited any consideration of Sharia law. The proposed ban was then struck down by a federal judge who ruled that it was unconstitutional. A federal appellate court upheld that decision and the proposed ban was defeated. The number of bills submitted across the country however, indicates that there is a strong public interest in how these laws are considered in our courts.
The role of family courts is to try to act in the best interests of the child when matters of divorce, child custody, or visitation arise. When one or both of the custodial parents are subject to religious or cultural laws that are in conflict with those of the U.S. family courts, the matter can become very complicated. Family court judges, attorneys and children’s services can often help families sort out these complicated issues.
It is not likely that a measure attempting to limit family and state court’s ability to consider international or religious laws will make it the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. It is, however, almost certain to be presented in the near future. Whether international laws will have a place in decisions made in family courts in California remains to be seen. Child custody and parental rights are sensitive issues, and the courts are loath to limit any individual parent’s rights.
Source: upi.com, “Under the U.S. Supreme Court: Islamic law — Sharia — in U.S. courts,” Michael Kirkland, May 19, 2013