The Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act

In Child Custody by Sarah Hink

Child custody disputes can bring out the worst in human nature. The joy, care, and responsibility of parenthood are a blessing, yet when parental rights or access to children are subject to limitation, people can make incredibly foolish and destructive decisions. Born out of some combination of anger, possessiveness, jealousy, fear, and sadness, some parents chose to abscond with their children. One of several laws to address this problem is the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA).

The PKPA Was Designed to Create Clarity

In 1980, the U.S. legislature enacted the PKPA, which is a set of laws designed to combat parents who take their children from the other parent with the intention of shopping for a more advantageous court in another state. Prior to 1980, there was not a consistent standard of determining what state should have jurisdiction over a child custody proceeding. There was: (1) “significant connection” jurisdiction and (2) “home state” jurisdiction.

In essence, jurisdiction could be established if a child had a significant connection to the state; however, this was discretionary to the courts and states had different ways of examining what this means. In contrast, a child’s home state was where the child had resided for at least six months. The problem between the two competing types of jurisdiction created a loophole for parents to take a child away from their home state and bring them to another state where they believed that they could find a more sympathetic court. The parent would then hide the child there until a “significant connection” could be established and file a custody lawsuit in that state. The result of this was unfair and would sometimes reward parents who have acted improperly.

The PKPA is especially significant in two regards. First, it made it a Federal crime for a parent to kidnap their child and bring them to another state in violation of a valid child custody order. This completely undercut any legal strategy for a parent to take a child from their home state. Second, the act gave primary jurisdiction to the court of the child’s home state. So if a child has resided in North Carolina for six months, a parent cannot violate a court order, run with a child to South Carolina, and file for custody there. Further, even if there is another state with a significant connection, the state with home state jurisdiction will have jurisdiction over the custody case.

New Direction Family Law

Parental kidnapping is a very serious matter. If you want to leave the state with your child, contact an attorney immediately to confirm that you are not violating the law. And if your child’s other parent has taken your child from this state, you need an attorney to help you exercise your legal rights. New Direction Family Law is a family law firm that handles separations, divorces, child custody, and child support cases. We provide attentive, prompt legal guidance and will fight for your rights. Call New Direction Family Law today at (919) 719-3470 to schedule an appointment, or contact us at our website.

Sarah J. Hink
New Direction Family Law

New Direction Family Law
(919) 719-3470