Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act

Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act

Under the Federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act, the home state of a child has jurisdiction to establish custody and visitation of the child. That state court continues to have jurisdiction over custody issues, and all other state courts are required to give full faith and credit to the court orders of the home state.

Priority Jurisdiction

The purpose of the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act is to stop parents and others involved in custody battles to go into courts in various states and get conflicting orders of custody and visitation. The Act establishes a priority order for determining which court has jurisdiction to determine child custody issues. Priority is given to the court which first issued custody orders. In the absence of such orders, priority is given to the court in the state where the child has lived in the six months prior to the filing of any legal proceedings. If there is no such court, the next priority is for the court in the state with the most significant connection to the child.


The Act also makes it a federal crime to take a child across state lines in order to retain a child, obtain custody of a child, or deprive access to a child in violation of an existing court order or when the custody issue is pending. A person who violates the court’s custody order and takes a child across state lines may be charged with a felony and may be liable under the Fugitive Felon Act. The Federal Bureau of Investigation may add its assistance to state and local police officers in attempting to locate the child.

Under the Act, the Federal Parent Locator Service is available to state and local agencies to help find the person who took the child. The Parent Locator Service provides access to a large number of federal databases, such as Social Security records, Internal Revenue tax returns, and Veterans benefits to help locate the latest address and possibly phone number of the person suspected of refusing to return the child or provide access, as required under the court order. Defenses to a charge under the Act are: (1) that the person was acting in accordance with a valid court order, (2) that concealing or not returning the child was necessary to avoid an attack against the child, or (3) that circumstances beyond control of the person, such as weather, prevented the return.