Often, when there is a child custody order in place, or even when a custody hearing is pending, one parent may fear that the other parent will attempt to circumvent the court and remove the child without consent, or fail to return the child following a routine visit. The government responded to this threat of parental abduction by instituting the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act (UCAPA). Generally, concerns of parental abduction will be addressed in an initial custody determination. However, if concerns about parental abduction are not addressed, a parent may file a petition under UCAPA to address any concerns regarding potential future abduction. Some states have adopted UCAPA, while others have not. Parents should check the specific laws of their state.
Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act Risk Factors
The UCAPA petition should include potential risk factors for parental abduction, such as:
- A history of previous custody-related parental abductions
- Threats of abductions
- A history of family violence, child abuse, or neglect
UCAPA Petition to Prevent Parental Abduction
A petition should state the potential destination of the parent accused of a potential abduction. It is important to determine the intended destination because many countries have an agreement with the United States which would require the immediate return of the abducted child and would forbid a parent who abducted a child from living in another country.
Parental Abduction Prevention Order
A court has several options to prevent a child's abduction. An abduction prevention order might:
- Prohibit the child's parent (respondent) from applying for a passport for the child
- Limit visitation and custody of the child (Note: A court will prefer not to interfere with a custody arrangement that is already in place, but in its discretion, a court will intercede, if it must protect a child from harm.)
- Require a respondent to take an education course on the potential harmful effects of abduction
After a custody determination, if a parent suspects a co-parent might consider abducting a child, he or she parent should seek immediate relief in court. However, a parent should be prepared with proof of an immediate, intended abduction, as a court will hear both sides of the story to determine whether a true, credible threat of parental abduction exists.