Thursday, April 19, 2007

Preventing International Child Abduction

The Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act – which includes some specific provisions designed to prevent international child abduction – was signed into law in Kansas on April 6, 2007. Kansas is the fourth state to enact it, along with Nevada, Nebraska and South Dakota. Bills to adopt the new law have been introduced in at least five other legislatures -- Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Governor Kathleen Sebelius said, "Children aren't just abducted by strangers. Sometimes, abductions take place during custody disputes. We want to identify situations where a child is potentially at risk for abduction and provide ways to prevent that abduction from taking place."

The American Bar Association’s House of Delegates at its Midyear Meeting in Miami in February approved the Uniform Act.

The Act authorizes a proceeding in a court between contestants in a child custody dispute during which the court considers the probability that a contestant will abduct a child to another state or foreign jurisdiction. Upon a finding that an abduction is highly probable, the court may issue orders as necessary to prevent that abduction. The court hears evidence respecting the risk of abduction, based upon statutorily provided risk factors: previous abductions or attempts to abduct; threats by a contestant respecting abduction; abuse of the child; domestic violence; negligence; or, refusal to obey an existing child-custody order.

There are further risk factors if the anticipated abduction is to a foreign country, especially if the country is not a party to the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction. Standing to bring such a proceeding broadly includes the court itself, a contestant in a child-custody proceeding, a prosecutor or a public attorney. UCAPA relies upon the jurisdictional rules of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.