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Shariah law fears in Idaho could kill child support treaty

In Massachusetts and across the country, some parents are receiving child support payments from a noncustodial parent who lives in another country. Enforcement and collection in international child support cases is difficult and cumbersome due to different laws and legal systems.

For years, the United States has been working with other countries to negotiate a treaty that will make worldwide collection of child support easier. Because states are responsible for child support collection in the United States, approval of the treaty by each state is required. The Idaho legislature rejected the treaty, expressing concerns that the treaty could lead to U.S. courts being required to follow Islamic Shariah law. One Idaho opponent of the treaty pointed out that France and Belgium, two countries in the treaty, have recognized decisions of Shariah courts. However, U.S. officials dismiss that concern because the treaty allows states to reject arrangements that are not consistent with the U.S. standard of fairness.

Sixteen other state legislatures have not yet approved the international child support treaty. However, Idaho is the only state that has affirmatively rejected the treaty. Idaho has a strong incentive to approve the treaty. If it fails to do so, the state will lose $46 million in federal funds as well as access to the national child support payment processing system.

A custodial parent in the U.S. often cannot afford to hire an attorney in another country to help collect child support from the non-custodial parent. If collection efforts are successful, they tend to take a very long time. An individual with a child whose other parent is not in the United States may want to talk to an attorney with experience in international child support cases. The attorney may be able to provide assistance in navigating the process for collecting child support in the other country.

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