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Parental Kidnapping

The Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA) was enacted to prevent jurisdictional conflicts in competition over child custody. and in particular to deter parents from abducting children for the purpose of obtaining custody awards. Despite its title, the PKPA is not limited to cases involving parental kidnapping. It applies generally to interstate custody disputes.

By the late 1970s, only about half the states had enacted their version of the UCCJA, and as a result, congress passed the PKPA to provide a national procedure for custody jurisdiction and enforcement. The PKPA was also enacted to mitigate the differences in UCCJA statutes and case law from state to state. Although differing in some respects, the provisions of the PKPA and the UCCJA are substantially similar. To the extent that requirements of the PKPA and the UCCJA do not conflict, the statutes are complementary; however, in cases of conflict, the federal PKPA preempts the UCCJA under the supremacy clause of the United States Constitution.

The PKPA differs from the UCCJA in two important areas. The first difference is that the PKPA prevents jurisdictional standoffs in the initial award of custody by granting the "homestate" a jurisdictional priority. The second difference is that the provision allowing modification of an existing custody decree is much more restrictive than under the UCCJA of the PKPA provides for recognition and enforcement of out-of-state custody decrees and limits a court's ability to modify the decree. The custody decree of another state cannot be modified as long as the child or a "contestant" continues to be a resident of that state, and that state keeps jurisdiction according to its own law. Concurrent jurisdiction is not possible under the PKPA. Courts have specifically disallowed modifications of a decree under the PKPA that were allowable under the UCCJA. The PKPA favors continuing jurisdiction in the state originally issuing the custody decree, providing that state acted in compliance with the PKPA.

At Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC, (717-827-4074 ) we have dealt with hundreds of cases involving the Uniform Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCJ) and the Parental Kidnapping Protection Act (PKPA). We need to act immediately, as time spent without filing a claim in court, provides additional time to the parent who has committed a wrong against the other parent and the child(ren). Do not wait to act!