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Kidnapping by Parents

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.  Abducted children suffer emotionally and sometimes physically at the hands of their abductors.  Many children are told that the other parent is dead or no longer loves them.  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.  The United States is also party to a treaty aimed at resolving international child abduction case.  Getting a custody determination that is entitled to enforcement nationwide and getting it enforced may be critical to recovering an abducted child in the United States.  The laws governing custody jurisdiction and enforcement are the following:

  • Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA): The UCCJA governs jurisdiction to make and modify child custody determinations and requires interstate recognition and enforcement of custody orders.
  • Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA): The UCCJEA replaced a previous Uniform Act, the “Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act”, primarily because the old act was inconsistent with the federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act.  Especially, when determining proper jurisdiction for initial custody determinations.  The UCCJEA corrects these problems.  The UCCJEA also added uniform procedures to register and enforce child-custody orders across state lines.
  • Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act of 1980 (PKPA): In 1980, Congress enacted the 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.

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