Kidnapping by parents encompasses the taking, retention or concealment of a child by a parent, other family member, or their agent, in derogation of the custody rights, including visitation rights, of another parent or family member. Because of the harmful effects on children, parental kidnapping has been characterized as a form of child abuse.
Congress has enacted civil and criminal laws to address parental kidnapping and interstate and international child custody and visitation disputes. In 1980, Congress enacted the Federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA) to resolve persistent problems in interstate child custody practice, and to address the growing problem of parental kidnapping. The PKPA governs the interstate effect that must be given to child custody determinations made by state courts that exercise jurisdiction consistently with its terms. Specifically, such custody determinations are entitled to full faith and credit in all states. Under the PKPA, once a ‘home state’ court enters a custody order, that state retains exclusive continuing jurisdiction to modify its order even if the custodial parent and child no longer live in the state, provided there is a basis under state law for custody jurisdiction. The PKPA does not apply in international cases.