While the prevalence of Amber Alerts on our cell phones and media is a reminder that child abduction is a very real threat, over 60% of Amber Alerts are for abductions not by strangers but by family members. In contentious custody cases, many parents fear that the other parent will abduct the child, or they may face accusations of parental interference or abduction. In 2006, the New Jersey Law Revision Commission considered passage of the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act (UCAPA). The commission ended up rejecting the law out of concerns that it would be ineffective and would give incentives to custodial parents to make false accusations and interfere with the rights of noncustodial parents. Since 2006, several other states have declined to pass UCAPA, citing similar concerns.
Background/Issues With UCAPA
Parents and advocacy groups concerned with international child abductions created and drafted the Uniform Child Abduction and Protection Act (UCAPA) to address and prevent international parental kidnapping. But use of the same law to prevent domestic child abduction has proved problematic because it defines connections to another state as a “red flag” for a “credible risk of abduction.” This means, for example, that UCAPA would define a New Jersey resident who owns a house in Delaware, has a business and extended family in New York, and recently sold assets in New Jersey as a child abduction risk in the absence of any intent or action. A disgruntled co-parent could then use UCAPA to limit the right of the other parent to travel, visit relatives, or even have unsupervised visits with the child.
New Jersey Relies on UCCJEA As Alternative to UCAPA
While New Jersey has declined to pass UCAPA, there are significant state laws preventing child abductions already on the books, including the state's Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). UCCJEA prevents parents from seeking an alternative custody plan in another state and removes any incentive for abducting their child. And parental kidnapping remains a serious criminal offense under New Jersey law.
Risk Factors and Remedies for Child Abduction
If a parent in a custody dispute in New Jersey is aware of significant risk factors for child abduction – such as the other parent threatening to take the child or securing travel documents without fully disclosing their plans – they should act immediately to discuss the issue with an experienced attorney. The court can impose remedies to prevent abduction, including mandating surrender of the child's passport or supervised visitation. If a co-parent has accused you of parental interference or intended abduction, you should discuss this immediately with an attorney. An experienced Attorney like Joseph D. Lento will look out for parental rights and make sure the courts follow due process to achieve the best possible outcome.
If you have concerns about child custody in New Jersey, contact Joseph D. Lento and his Family Law Team online or by phone at 888-535-3686 for a consultation.