Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act

Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act

What is it?

The Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA) is a Federal law enacted in 1980 in an attempt to reduce interstate conflicts over jurisdiction and discourage “forum shopping” by parents who are dissatisfied with an existing or pending custody order made pursuant to the laws of their child’s “home state”.

What is its Purpose?

The purpose of the Federal PKPA was to assert the jurisdictional supremacy of a child’s “home state” in matters pertaining to child custody and visitation. Prior to the passage of the PKPA, however, jurisdiction in child custody and visitation was typically determined either by the “home state” standard or the “significant connection” standard. The whole concept of parental abduction or parental kidnapping did not exist. The “home state” standard maintained that a child’s “home state” was the state where they had resided for at least six months prior to the filing of the custody action, whereas the “significant connection” standard maintained that a “significant connection” to a state was valid grounds for jurisdiction when there existed substantial evidence of such a connection. However, there were instances in which the “home state” and “significant connection” standards applied in two different states. For instance, a child may have a “significant connection” to one state while the other state is considered the child’s “home state”. In an attempt to resolve this ambiguity in the law, the PKPA established the jurisdictional primacy of the “home state” standard in matters pertaining to child custody. At present, the act states four grounds for jurisdiction exist:

  • Home state
  • Significant connection
  • Emergency
  • More appropriate forum

The “emergency” grounds for jurisdiction apply in cases where there is evidence of abuse or danger to the child, whereas the “more appropriate forum” standard applies when no other grounds for jurisdiction can be identified. Kidnapping by parents or parental abduction has become a serious offense in the United States.

In fact parental abduction and parental kidnapping under PKPA makes it a Federal crime now to knowingly and purposely relocate a child in violation of a lawful custody order, so parents or non-parent family members who are thinking of relocating their child pursuant to a divorce or separation should consult with a New York family lawyer before attempting to relocate their child to another county or state.

For parents and non-parent family members who need assistance in preventing or remedying parental abduction or parental kidnapping cases, they should contact law enforcement authorities as well as a child custody attorney who is experienced in family law pertaining to custody and visitation rights.