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Understanding the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act: Part I

In 1999, some 262,000 children were abducted in the United States, 78 percent of them by family members because of child-custody battles gone awry, according to the U.S. Justice Department. All states, including Tennessee, have statutes that address child-custody and visitation arrangements and punishments for child abductions, but prevention mechanisms have always been inadequate.

To address this concern, the independent, not-for-profit Uniform Law Commission drafted model legislation, the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act, in 2006, which was enacted into law by many states, including Tennessee. Valuable tools are now available that can discourage and prevent domestic and international abductions of children by parents or others acting on behalf of parents. Many states, including Tennessee, have also enacted the ULC's model Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act into law; this act is compatible with the UCAPA.

The purpose of the UCAPA is to encourage communication and cooperation between states because many abductions involve more than one state. The UCAPA capitalizes on existing interstate enforcement mechanisms related to child custody, visitation and abduction as specified in the UCCJEA.

The UCAPA also specifically addresses various unique issues that custodial parents face with international abductions. Courts now must consider whether a child at risk of abduction might be taken to another country that a U.S. court could not access, whether the country is at war and whether the country is identified as a state sponsor of terrorism.

The UCAPA also requires courts to consider whether a country to which a child might be taken after abduction is or is not a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. In addition, a court is also required to consider any possible issues related to immigration or citizenship, such as recent changes in citizenship status or denial of U.S. citizenship.

Source: Uniform Law Commission, "Child Abduction Prevention Summary," Accessed on Feb. 11, 2015

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