Immediately following the divorce, the Mother was forced to leave Saudi Arabia without the children because she was no longer sponsored by the Father, and because of Saudi guardianship laws.In June 2013, the Father let the children visit Pennsylvania for summer timesharing. The Mother kept them, and sued for custody in Pennsylvania. At the same time, the Father sued in a Saudi court, which awarded him sole custody of the children. The Father then tried to have his Saudi custody order recognized in Pennsylvania to enforce it. The Mother objected. The Pennsylvania court sided with the Mother, and refused to enforce it. Why? The Saudi Order states, in part:
First, the non-Muslim shall not have right of custody of a Muslim.
Second, custody of each girl who attains the seventh year of age is with her father.
Third, if either parent desires to live in a remote country, priority for child custody shall go to the father whether the traveler is the father or mother.
Fourth, the female after attaining seventh year of age shall have no choice and she should stay with her father till marriage . . . the father is often more careful in protecting his daughter.
The Pennsylvania court found the Saudi judgment (especially the highlighted portions) violated state public policy, and refused to register it under principles of comity.Foreign laws are increasingly being challenged in the U.S. For example, Islamic and American laws sometimes clash as you could probably guess fromt he bolded language in the Saudi order. I’ve written about the intersection of Family law and Islamic law before. In 2014, Florida passed a law which prohibits our state courts from basing a decision on a foreign law that does not grant the parties the same rights guaranteed by the Florida or U.S. Constitutions. The opinion is available here. Thanks to the Volokh Conspiracy for its analysis.