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US judge refuses to recognize Sharia law in custody dispute

Court actions can be complex when divorcing couples dispute child custody. Spouses sometimes accuse one another of being unfit parents to make a case for primary custody. For child custody cases that cross international lines, the road to resolution is even more difficult, especially when one country involved has not signed The Hague Convention treaty designed to prevent parental child abductions.

A U.S. district court judge decided that Sharia divorce and custody laws could not be acknowledged in the international custody dispute over a little girl. The judge ruled that Sharia law, based on Islamic beliefs, violated "human rights" and did not take a child's best interests into consideration.

The girl at the center of the custody battle is in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. The child has non-Muslim parents who are U.S. citizens.

UAE attorneys disagree with the American judge's view of Dubai's Sharia laws. Dubai lawyers contend that non-Muslims in the UAE are not forced to abide by the religiously-based laws. People outside the Islamic faith have the option to choose civil laws. Foreigners, like the parents of the child in question, can also agree to use laws of their native country, as long as the parties agree.

The U.S. judge declared that Sharia custody laws would automatically grant a child's father guardianship. Middle Eastern attorneys denied that was true for non-Muslim parents who were non-criminals and who were considered fit parents.

Sharia law awards mothers custody of girls through age 12 and boys up to age 10, although remarriage could jeopardize that arrangement. Fathers given custody under Sharia law are required to have a female family member help with child-rearing.

It is possible that the American child's custody case will be decided by Dubai's local laws. Foreign child custody rules and U.S. district judges' orders may have no bearing on the girl's case, without the Emirates participation in The Hague Convention international treaty.

Source: The National, "US judge refuses to recognise ruling - but he's wrong, say UAE lawyers," Jen Thomas, Jun 3, 2012

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