U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

End of Legal Kidnapping in Pennsylvania - The Development of a Decided Public Policy

NCJ Number
Villanova Law Review Volume: 25 Dated: (May 1980) Pages: 784-810
F N Frank
Date Published
27 pages
The law bearing upon parental kidnapping in Pennsylvania is examined; with particular attention to the State's law prior to adoption of the child custody acts and deficiencies in reform laws.
Prior to 1977, Pennsylvania lacked a civil statute barring parental kidnapping, and the lone criminal statute proscribing such activity was rarely used. Parents were encouraged by the law and the courts to kidnap their children from the parent having custody, take the child into the jurisdiction of the noncustodial parent, and then petition the court in that jurisdiction for custody. Courts would customarily hear such a case without regard to an existing custody order issued in another jurisdiction. The subsequent passage of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA) and the Commonwealth Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (CCCJA) sought to change this circumstance. One of the major goals of the UCCJA is to deter abductions and other unilateral removals of children undertaken to obtain custody awards. The act achieves this goal through the inclusion of a section which bases the exercise of jurisdiction on the conduct of the party seeking relief. The act prohibits the Pennsylvania courts from exercising jurisdiction in a modification case if the petitioner, without consent of the person entitled to custody, has improperly removed the child from the home of the person entitled to custody or has improperly retained the child after a visit. There is an exception to this rule when the court finds that the best interests of the child require that it exercise jurisdiction. With the enactment of the CCCJA, the parent who takes a child across county borders in Pennsylvania in order to relitigate custody faces the same result imposed by the UCCJA. Case law after the enactment of the UCCJA and the CCCJA is examined, and areas of weakness in the laws are identified. Footnotes are provided.


No download available