Portrait of John K Grubb

Texas Divorce and Prenuptial Agreement

4550 Post Oak Place, Suite 201 • Houston, Texas 77027-3139

Phone: 713-877-8800 • Fax: 713-877-1229

Federal PKPA Requires Other States to Enforce Custody Orders

While the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”) has been a great benefit to parents, it is unfortunate that the UCCJEA cannot prevent all instances of parental misconduct when it comes to children. Parental kidnapping remains a prevalent crime, with a quarter of a million cases of it occurring each year. In fact, more than 2,000 children are reported missing every day; in the vast majority of cases, law enforcement finds them quickly, but in the remaining cases, most are a result of parental kidnapping.

A federal law similar to the UCCJEA (which, though uniform, is adopted state-by-state) requires states to respect child custody determinations made elsewhere. That law is the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (“PKPA”). In many respects, the PKPA echoes what the UCCJEA says:

  • The PKPA requires other states to enforce child custody orders that were properly obtained (states must give “full faith and credit” to proper child custody determinations)
  • If states modify another state’s child custody order without complying with the PKPA, then the new determination is not entitled to enforcement in other states
  • Like the UCCJEA, the PKPA emphasizes the child’s “home state” as the state usually with original jurisdiction (see Tuesday’s post about how the UCCJEA determines which state has original jurisdiction), but the PKPA determination is not entirely the same
  • Under the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution, any conflict between the PKPA and state law must be decided in favor of the PKPA

The PKPA is not, however, a federal criminal law. It does provide remedies like civil lawsuits or injunctions against parents who violate its provisions. An additional benefit of the PKPA is that unlike the UCCJEA (which Massachusetts has not yet adopted), the PKPA is federal, so parents can rely on it in any state where they find themselves engaged in a child custody dispute, and the PKPA will always trump state law.

Have you made use of the federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act? How effective was it?

John K. Grubb & Associates, P.C. – Houston divorce attorneys

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