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When foreign law features in Florida, other states' divorces

A divorce in America can intrinsically be somewhat complicated and messy. When it comes to handling matters of the Islamic governing law Shariah, though, even some divorce professionals are sometimes stumped as to what the right course of action is.

This is even more the case when handling divorces of marriages conducted under Shariah in a different country. In some countries, there is no distinction between Shariah and local law. A marriage conducted according to Shariah -- which is Islamic law -- may or may not be considered legal in the context of America's marriage laws. In these cases, judges often have to set child custody, property division and other issues aside and focus instead on figuring out whether the marriage should be deemed legal in the first place.

In order to do this, judges often have to consult Islamic law experts to better understand the context of the marriage. And the result can certainly have significant implications in Florida and other states' divorce cases. If the marriage is deemed legal, then alimony and a share of marital assets will be owed to the female. If the marriage does not receive the distinction of being legally binding, then the woman might be left out in the cold with nothing to show from the marriage.

Yet some U.S. politicians want to ban judges from considering Shariah altogether, as well as other foreign laws regarding marriage. At least one divorce expert says such a proposal would deny Muslims the right to execute marriages and divorces according to their beliefs, and would inhibit judges from fairly weighing and passing judgments in such cases.

Islamic law experts say that most Muslim-Americans want their divorces to be conducted in accordance with Shariah. Those experts also content that a Shariah ban -- which has been enacted in six states and is being considered in 20 more -- violates several rights of those individuals, most notably their constitutional freedom of religion.

Source: Washington Post, "Shariah or not, Muslim divorces can get tricky," Omar Sacirbey, Oct. 1, 2012

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