Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act

Parental kidnapping of one’s own child is a form of child abuse, and occurs when one parent violates the custody order and takes the child — illegally depriving the other parent of custody and parenting time (visitation). Whether the child is taken away to a location within the state, or whether the child is taken out-of-state, the result is the same. The other parent’s rights to custody or visitation are unlawfully obstructed.

The Federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA) of 1980, 28 U.S.C. § 1738A, established national standards regarding the proper exercise of jurisdiction over custody matters among the states. This was accomplished by giving “full faith and credit” to those custody orders which satisfy the PKPA. When a court’s order doesn’t satisfy the PKPA, the other states need not enforce that order within their borders. That is, the other states need not give the custody order full faith and credit.

As you would expect, the PKPA also applies to modifications of child custody orders. If the modification doesn’t comply with the provisions of the PKPA, then the order is not entitled to the full faith and credit of the other states.

The standards in the PKPA are much the same as those promulgated in the state’s Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). However, under the PKPA the home state’s jurisdiction is of paramount importance. Should a conflict arise between the PKPA and a provision of the UCCJEA, the federal law overrides the state’s law under Article VI’s supremacy clause of our U.S. Constitution.