The Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act
Domestic and international parental child abduction is a significant issue in the United States. It often occurs when parents separate or begin dissolution proceedings. A parent may remove the child seeking to gain an advantage, or because of a fear of loss in child-custody proceedings. There are various ways that kidnapping may happen. A parent may not return a child at the end of parenting time, or may remove the child from his or her home to prevent the other parent from having access. Sometimes a parent legitimately removes a child due to a fear of domestic violence or child abuse. Courts are charged with determining whether the removal or restriction of access was due to legitimate safety concerns.
Federal law offers abduction protections to parents in The Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act. A parent can petition a court for assistance if the other parent abducts the child. A Court can issue an abduction prevention order restricting travel and setting forth parenting time and decision-making. The responding party must be given notice and an opportunity to be heard. A petition must include information about:
- Biographical information for the parents and child
- Past child abduction incidents or domestic violence
- Any prior parental responsibility or parenting time actions
- Identification of any person with rights pertaining to the child who is not a party to the action
A Court will examine a variety of factors to determine what action should be taken upon allegations of child abduction:
- Prior abduction threats or actions
- The citizenship and ties to the community of the alleged abducting party
- A history of noncompliance with court orders or fraud
- A history of domestic violence
If there is a credible risk of imminent wrongful removal of a child, a court can enter an Ex Parte warrant, based on information presented by only one side, for custody of the child. A Court should take sworn testimony from the accuser before issuing an order to ensure due process. A warrant must include the following information:
- The facts demonstrating imminent, wrongful removal
- A direction to law enforcement to take custody of the child
- The date and time for the hearing
- Identification of an interim placement for the child
International child abduction occurs when a parent or relative leaves the country with the child in violation of a custody or parenting time order. Sometimes children are taken on a vacation to a foreign country and not returned. There is an international treaty, The Hague Convention, that specifies procedures for return. However, it can be difficult to retrieve children after international abduction.
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