Decoding the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act – Part I

Despite the best intentions of the courts and most parents in dealing with child custody matters, there are some situations where concerns may arises over the possibility of one parent disregarding the court directive and abducting a child. While state laws like those here in Florida address initial child custody and visitation arrangements as well as some remedial actions in the event of child abductions, prevention mechanisms may appear somewhat inadequate to many people, particularly where a child may cross state or international boundaries.

To address this concern, the Uniform Law Commission drafted the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act in 2006, which provides valuable tools that can deter and prevent domestic and international abduction of children either by a parent or any other person acting on behalf of the parent. Since many states have already adopted and enacted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, the Uniform Law Commission drafted the UCAPA, keeping in mind its compatibility with the UCCJEA.

The purpose of the UCAPA is to encourage communication and cooperation between states in the event of a child being abducted because many cases often involve more than one state. The UCAPA is able to accomplish this goal by getting the most out of the existing interstate jurisdiction and enforcement mechanisms related to child custody, visitation and abduction that are specified in the UCCJEA.

In addition, the UCAPA addresses several unique issues that custodial parents face post child abduction. In the event of international abductions, for example, the UCAPA requires courts to consider if the country to which a child has been taken to after abduction is not a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

The act also requires courts to consider if the party who has abducted the child would take that child to a country where the child is at risk either because of existing laws that restrict a U.S. court’s access to the child or because the country is at war or if that country is identified as a state sponsor of terrorism. Additionally, courts would also be required to consider any possible issues related to immigration or citizenship such as recent changes in citizenship status or denial of United States citizenship.