Gov. Rick Scott (J. Albert Diaz)
Gov. Rick Scott’s signature on a family law bill brings to an end a four-year dispute between anti-Islamists and the Florida Bar.
Scott on Monday signed Senate Bill 386 titled “Application of Foreign Law in Courts.”
The impetus for the law was a widespread conservative religious movement determined to restrict the use of Islamic law, also called Shariah law. Eight state legislatures passed anti-Shariah bills, but the governor of Missouri vetoed the bill out of concern for its effects on international adoptions and an Oklahoma federal judge struck it down as unconstitutional.
The international law section of the Florida Bar opposed earlier versions of the bill. After the Oklahoma law was struck down, Florida supporters opted for language that applied to any foreign law.
The international law section argued that made matters worse. For example, a Florida court might not be able to enforce an Argentinian choice of law provision in a prenuptial agreement signed in Argentina should the divorce take place in Florida.
The section argued legislation was unnecessary since existing Florida case law specifies a standard for applying foreign law in Florida. A compromise was reached that had the Legislature adopt case law.
SB 386 applies only to family law and has no effect beyond what Florida courts already do. It codifies six Florida precedents from the past 28 years and one rule of civil procedure.
SB 386 reassures backers of the original bill that in matters of divorce, alimony, marital assets, child support and custody, state courts may not base a decision on a foreign law or enforce a judgment or forum selection or grant a motion if the parties are not afforded the same liberties guaranteed in the U.S. and state constitutions.
Eduardo Palmer, a Coral Gables attorney who spearheaded the bar section’s efforts, worked with state Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, on the compromise.