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Hastings Law Journal

Abstract

The federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA) was passed in 1980 to enhance uniformity in the resolution of interstate jurisdictional disputes involving child custody. Although the PKPA has helped to reduce such conflicts, it has not completely eliminated the problem of competing custody decrees because courts differ in their interpretations of the PKPA's jurisdictional rules. Confusion also remains about the extent of a court's power to modify a child custody decree entered by another state. As a result, the uniform national standard for resolving interstate custody disputes, envisioned by the drafters of the PKPA, has not yet been achieved.

This Note argues that a principal reason for seemingly inconsistent state interpretations of the PKPA is the statute's implicit bias against interstate moves. The PKPA fails to adequately differentiate between interstate moves made in an attempt to deny access to the noncustodial parent and those interstate moves made for more legitimate reasons. By providing that only the state that originally issued a child custody decree has the power to modify it, the PKPA would force custodial parents who have moved away from the original marital home to return to the original decree state to answer a custody petition filed by the noncustodial parent. Ms. DeMelis believes that many courts are motivated to find a way around the PKPA to avoid this unpalatable result, thereby undermining the effectiveness of the entire statute. This Note argues that the best resolution for this problem is the adoption of legislation fixing jurisdiction, for both initial decrees and modifications, in the current established home of the child.

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