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Child Snatching

NCJ Number
A Tresidder
Date Published
15 pages
Following an overview of child snatching, this monograph describes Oregon's laws relating to custodial interference, compares them with other State and Federal laws, and discusses Canada's judicial options.
Parental kidnapping has been attributed to the exclusion of parents from Federal kidnapping laws, inconsistent enforcement of State laws, and frequent modification of one State's custody agreements by another State. The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act was drafted in 1968 to eliminate incentives for child snatching and has been adopted by 39 States including Oregon. This law, however, applies only to final decrees, does not provide for finding and returning the parent or child, and still allows States to assume jurisdiction and modify custody decrees. Oregon also has enacted criminal penalties for child snatching in Statutes 163.245 and 163.257, but critics contend that law enforcement agencies are reluctant to prosecute and prosecutors give custody cases low priority. To alleviate visitation problems which often contribute to child snatching, in 1977 Oregon enacted a law permitting joint custody. California has passed several laws to reduce child snatching through stiffer criminal penalties, encouraging joint custody, and using State agencies to locate abducted children. There is no uniform manner of statutorily addressing the issue, and States commonly adopt custodial interference laws. The 1981 Federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act requires States to accept custody decrees awarded by other States and allows the Federal Parent Locator Service to be used to find parents who kidnap their children. The Hague Conference on Private International Law has prepared a draft convention on international child abduction. In Canada, abduction of a child under 14 is punishable by a 10-year prison term. Courts can order a noncustodial parent to stay completely away from the child if he or she is interfering with the custody orders or find that someone charged with child snatching is either in contempt or in breach of a court order. The latter option is the most frequently exercised and may result in a fine or imprisonment. There is no law requiring one province to honor the custody decree of another. The paper includes 37 footnotes.