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Maryland defers to child custody orders from foreign courts

A plank in the Republican Party’s recently adopted platform has caused at least one commentator to question the wisdom of a Maryland Court of Special Appeals’ decision that has now been on the books for over 10 years. The Republican Party platform cautions courts in the United States not to apply foreign codes of law when making decisions. One such foreign code of law is Sharia, the code of law used by some groups of observant Muslims.

The Maryland child custody decision that this court called in to question involved a Pakistani woman and her child. The woman fled from her native country to the United States, leaving her husband in Pakistan. Her husband sued for divorce in Pakistan, but she requested that a Maryland court award her custody of her child.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani court, presumably employing the principles of Sharia, awarded the father custody of the child. While the mother had explained that returning to Pakistan and submitting to Sharia law could subject her to severe punishments for alleged adultery, the Maryland Court deferred to Pakistan’s decision that the father should have custody of the child.

As the Maryland Court pointed out, Maryland child custody laws require that the courts in Maryland defer to the earlier child custody rulings of another court, even a court in another country. In this case, the mother of the child supposedly could not demonstrate that the proceedings in Pakistan were somehow unfair or that the Pakistani court did not try to determine the best interest of the child when making its decision.

Right or wrong, Maryland child custody laws may require this state’s courts to consider matters that may touch upon the laws and decrees of foreign countries. It is therefore very important for a person involved in a Maryland child custody dispute to be aware of any other related court proceedings from out of state, even if those court proceedings took place halfway around the globe.

Source: Gatestone Institute, “The ‘No Foreign Law’ Statement”, Karen Lugo, Sept. 6, 2012.

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