St. Mary's Law Journal


Wayne Young


Approximately 100,000 parental child-snatchings occur annually. When a parent takes a kidnapped child to another jurisdiction, the injured parent must convince the court to recognize a foreign custody decree and persuade the same court to enforce that decree. Congress enacted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA) to eliminate relitigation of custody decrees in other states and end court practices which protect the kidnapping parent. However, the UCCJA does not resolve parental child-snatching because the Act is ineffective in non-adopting states and the Act fails to aid a state in locating the abducting parent. Non-UCCJA states such as Texas have adopted statutes to alleviate some of the jurisdictional conflicts that Congress designed the UCCJA to resolve. However, such statutes also fall short of resolving parental child-snatching. The Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act of 1980 (PKPA) will provide a more effective solution to parental child-snatching than state statutes or the UCCJA. The PKPA makes three significant contributions: a full faith and credit clause, the use of the Federal Parent Locator Service, and the application of the Federal Fugitive Felon Act to child-snatching cases. These contributions will facilitate the establishment of a uniform system for recognizing and enforcing child custody decrees. Further, the Federal Parent Locator Service provides substantial financial savings to the parent-victim and helps locate the child-snatching parent. Lastly, the Federal Fugitive Felon Act makes an abducting parent guilty of a federal offense, thereby functioning as a deterrent to parental kidnapping and permitting assistance from the FBI. Although the PKPA is in its beginning stages, it brings us one step closer to a comprehensive solution to parental child-snatching.


St. Mary's University School of Law