What Is the International Parental Kidnapping Act ?

Child custody cases can become not only international disputes, but they can also become a criminal matter, from Amber Alerts to the International Cause Celebre ala Elian Gonzalez and the Goldmans and Brazil. When they become criminal it is a federal issue since 1993 when the U.S. Congress dealt with international child abductions. It passed the International Parental Kidnapping Act (IPKA), 18 U.S.C.  §1204. The Act imposes criminal penalties upon parents who illegally abduct children.

It is a federal felony for a parent to wrongfully remove or retain a child outside the United States. There are three defenses to the crime 1) The defendant was granted custody or visitation pursuant to the UCCJEA, 2) the defendant is fleeing domestic violence, and 3) the defendant was unable to return a child to the custodial parent because of circumstances beyond their control.

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