Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Guest Post by Family Law of Orlando: Controversial Foreign Law Bill Reintroduced in Florida Legislature

The Florida Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a foreign law bill proposed by Senator Alan Hays and Rep. Larry Metz. The bill would prevent courts from using religious or foreign law in divorce proceedings, including divorce, child custody, and division of assets.

The bill, SB 58, is controversial and has received disapproval from Islamic and Jewish groups, as well as the ACLU. They claim it infringes on freedom of religion. The bill would allow Florida law to overrule any foreign or religious law pertaining to divorce.

The bill did not pass through the Senate last year, but Hays and Metz are trying again. The bill is especially criticized as being anti-Sharia, a code of laws outline in the Koran. Hays and Metz claim this is not their goal, but the bill’s wording is extremely similar to model legislation posted on the American Public Policy Alliance’s website whose purpose is “to protect American citizens’ constitutional right against the infiltration and incursion of foreign laws and foreign legal doctrines, especially Islamic Sharia Law.”

Hays claims that the bill is “not insulting to any religious group,” and that “if your law violates the constitutional right of a Floridian, it has no business being in a Florida court.” However, the executive director of the South Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations says if the bill passes they are prepared to fight it.

Family Law of Orlando plans to watch the developments on this bill closely. If it passes it could affect divorce proceedings not just for Muslims but people of other faiths as well.

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