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What is the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act?

Child abduction is one of the most high-profile political and legal issues in the nation. Even though most of us think of abduction and kidnapping as being perpetrated by strangers, the fact remains that about three in four kids are actually taken by a relative. In some cases, family members are distraught over child custody decisions that they think freeze them out of their kids' lives. The parent who has primary physical custody may be put in a horrifying situation if such an abduction occurs. It is important to realize that custodial parents have additional rights and resources under an important piece of Pennsylvania legislation.

The state passed the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act in 2006. This law is designed to prevent both international and domestic abductions by parents, relatives and people acting on behalf of the child's parents. The UCAPA is designed to be a nationwide tool to protect children by establishing emergency protocol. The UCAPA can also play a role in child custody decisions and other family law rulings.

The act intentionally addresses risk factors that could contribute to a future child abduction. For example, previous abductions or threats of abduction will be considered to determine whether the child is at risk for a kidnapping. Abduction prevention measures may be taken by a parent who has physical custody of the child who is deemed to be at risk. In severe situations, the state may even elect to seize physical custody of the child in order to prevent an impending abduction.

This legislation allows state officials and courts to provide realistic and usable abduction prevention measures. Parents who believe their child may be at risk of abduction may further the best interests of the child by seeking court protection. These parents and legal guardians should be aware that legislation can provide additional protection if they believe their child is at risk of a custody-related kidnapping.

Source: Child Abduction Prevention Summary, "Uniform Law Commission," Accessed on Aug. 12, 2014

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