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Proposed Georgia law impacting Muslim family law cases advances

Georgia’s House Judiciary Non-civil Committee approved “the American Laws for Georgia’s Court Act” this Thursday, which will move the controversial proposed law forward for a full vote in the House of Representatives. The primary intent of the bill is to prevent Georgia judges from deferring to Sharia law when resolving divorce and child custody cases. Sharia law is based on Islamic principles determined by clerics and is used in many of the world’s Muslim countries.

As expected, the bill has been strongly opposed by the Muslim-American community. It has also drawn sharp criticism from many Georgia business leaders, attorneys and others who feel that as written, the law could have a chilling effect on international trade relationships and have other negative, unintended legal consequences as well.

The bill’s author, Representative Christian Coomer from Cartersville, has responded to some criticism by revising certain portions of the proposed bill. However, citing similar pieces of legislation already passed or currently pending in the states of South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee, Coomer also reiterated his belief that his bill “is not suddenly putting Georgia on some track different from the other states.”

Representative Stacey Adams, the House leader from Atlanta, has a different view. Adams sees huge problems for Georgians with dual citizenship if the bill is enacted into law. She is also concerned that the law could result in foreign judges refusing to enforce Georgia child custody orders against parents who have left the United States with a child, in violation of such an order. Adams believes that Georgia’s existing family laws are sufficient to deal with the problems Rep. Coomer had in mind when he drafted the bill, and also noted a lack of any “… demonstrated evidence that this is needed.”

While opinions are strong and varied on this subject, it is important for any individual involved in a custody dispute in Georgia to know there have been no reports of Sharia law ever being cited or deferred to in a child custody case in our state. Family law attorneys and family courts in Georgia, like those in the rest of the nation, remain focused on what is most important – finding child custody solutions that are in the best interests of the children involved.

Source: The Florida Times-Union, “Georgia House committee clears measure on Sharia law,” Walter C. Jones, Feb. 24, 2012