Please help STOP SB1449 (Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act)

Submitted by LaDads on Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:39


This bill started its life as HB2136 (Child Abduction PreventionPennsylvaniaHB 21362012KulaIntroduced)

It was dead there, but 13 Senators

MARCH 20, 2012

have picked the bill up.  It is out of committee already.

Please help stop this bill. 

We appear to have stopped it in the other states so far this year.  



Dear Senator Richard L. Alloway II


My apologies for the late notice and if I have failed to contact any of the appropriate parties.  I am not in the state of Pennsylvania and did not until just a few minutes ago see that you were seeking to pass the unconstitutional UCAPA law.
My name is Nicholas James.  I am the President of Louisiana Dads.  We are a group located in the state of Louisiana that promotes shared parenting and fair child support orders.

Several years back, we opposed the passage of the UCAPA law in Louisiana.  We were successful in getting this horrible law modified from an anti-american law to just a xenophobic law.
Please see the New Jersey's law commission review of this law.  After we contacted them, they decided to NOT recommend this law to their legislature.  They can give you a far more scholarly view than I will in this simple email.

Before Louisiana, this law had passed unanimously in 7 states.  Louisiana passed a modified version of this law - we took the law back to its original intent and made it international only in scope.  After Louisiana, this bill has failed to pass in most states that it has been proposed in.  We managed to stop it in  (2007) Texas, Connecticut, Michigan, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, (2008) New Jersey, New Hampshire, Idaho, (2009) New Hampshire, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Washington, (2010) Hawaii, Iowa, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Washington, (2011) Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Mexico, and Texas.   Our first loss was Mississippi in 09 - we didn't find out about the bill in that state until the day the governor was signing it.  Last year, we had three more losses (Alabama, Tennessee and Florida) because we were busy stopping it in the other seven states that they were seeking passage that year.

Ordinarily, the Uniform Law group proposes excellent laws.  The previous year I had spoke in favor of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA).
But this law (UCAPA) they have gone astray on.
The original intent was good.
The law was designed to prevent the adbuction of children to other countries that do not comply with the international Hague treaty - so there were no effective means to obtain their return.
Then the committee took a wrong turn.  They expanded the scope to cover ALL alleged child abductions including inter-state and in-state. This is where they went wrong.
Do you really want to pass a law that allows a divorcing party to file an ex-parte order requesting that the police seize the children from the other parent at 3am in the morning?
This is a power for the state or federal government to exercise and only then with the utmost discression. (i.e. Eliane Gonzales)
And the law authorizes such seizures by a disgruntled spouse for such specious reasons as:
The best course on this horrible law is to reject it and send it back to the uniform law people for futher review.  The dangers of modifing complex bills on the fly being too great.
In Louisiana, we passed a modified version of this law.  We stripped out the word STATE from the law and sought to limit its scope back to its ORIGINAL intent - potential abductions to NON-HAGUE countries.
We also sought to limit the abuse of the alleged 'indicators of abduction' by requiring that they be consiered in total and not separately.
As in your state, this bill sailed through the Louisiana Senate.  It was not until the House committee that I was able to get anyone to actually read the bill.
Here is what Representative Shirely Bowler (someone who is normally opposed to our isses) said against the bill:
I also managed to convince a Family Law attorney to actually read the bill.  His initial reply to my action alert was that this law only applied to international abductions (original committee intent).  I replied that the committee had changed their scope and ths bill now applied to instate and interstate cases.  He reread the bill and agreed to testify on short notice.  Here is an exerpt from his testimony:
Links to the testimony:
* Agenda for the Louisiana hearing]
* First house committee hearing on the bill. Testimony starts at 2:24 to 3:04]
I hope I have attached the correct two documents from the New Jersey review of the UCAPA law.  There should be an intermediate document and a final document.  If not, please contact the New Jersey commission for a copy of their reports. The New Jersey commission declined to go forward with this law after they read it closely.
I think we also stopped passage of this bill in Texas.  Their bill had sailed through the House committee, house and Senate committee without much review.  It was on the calendar for non-controversial passage when it suddenly stops.
Similarly I think we stopped the passage of this law in Michigan after notifying family groups and the ACLU there.
The only states (7) that this bill has passed in have been states that have not reviewed the law closely.  If you review their legislative records, you can see that there were no serious discussions about the ramifications of this law.
It is all very well and good to be against child abduction.  None of us are for that.  None of us want to hear of a child taken to Saudi Arabia or Russia, and denied contact with his or her other parent (and extended family on that side) for life.
But this law, as written, will do far more harm than good.
Of particular concern is the authorization of the judge and the police to seize children in the dead of night from a parents home on the basis of an EX-PARTE order by a divorcing party. An act that is very harmfull to the children.  At its least it may traumatize them for life;  At its worst, in may cause their deaths.
Sincerely yours,
Nicholas James
President, LaDads
UCAPA links on our site:

New Jersey Law Commissions review of this same legislation.
VI. A warrant to take physical custody of a child, issued by this state or another state, is enforceable throughout this state. If the court finds that a less intrusive remedy will not be effective, it may authorize law enforcement officers to enter private property to take physical custody of the child. If required by exigent circumstances, the court may authorize law enforcement officers to make a forcible entry at any hour.
I. If a petition under this chapter contains allegations, and the court finds that there is a credible risk that the child is imminently likely to be wrongfully removed, the court may issue an ex parte warrant to take physical custody of the child.
Ordinary life activities:
Requried parenting duties:
Natural family circumstances:
===== Excerpt from Harold Murry Family Law Attorney, Alexandria =====
  Murry: Hello, My name is Harold Murry, I am a family law attorney in Alexandria, I am also on the Supreme Courts domestic violence along with Anne Styre, who is a friend of mine, who I believe is speaking in favor of the bill.
  My problem with this bill, is I think it started out as a really good idea, if you go look at the web site, you see that it started out as the Uniform International Child Abduction prevention act.
  Because that is a huge problem, I have had cases where the father of the kid for instance is an exchange student from Jordan or he is a merchant from Pakistan and the people split and he is not going to get custody, he takes the kids to that country, and all we can do is write a couple of letters to the consulate, the mom never sees them again, there is no way to get them back.
  and that is why there is so much in this about the Hague treaty on child abduction, whether or not somebody is from one of these countries where you can take kids and never get them back. At some point, I think in August of 2004, somebody appended some additional language to this, to make this solve all problems, and they took the International, the word international out and they added this thing that if you are from another state or have strong cultural ties to another state, that you are suspect, just like somebody who is from another country and really has the ability to do this sort of thing.
  I tell my clients, there are always these threats that well, I am going to take the kid, no I am going to take the kid and you'll be darned if you see him again. I say, let him take the kid to Mississippi, we will have the kid back in two weeks and the judge will put him in jail. I'd love it. Don't worry about it.
  We have all the laws we need. We have the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act; We have the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act - which is the federal statute to prevent children from being snatched from State to State.
  They talk about strong cultural ties to another State should make you suspect. Well, I can't imagine them saying that somebody in Nebraska has cultural ties to Kansas that are suspect, they don't even have culture. I mean, its all the same, they are from the mid-west. (audience laughter) I mean, I think it is going to be used against Cajuns or something, I don't know. If you live in Houston and you have LSU season tickets you are suspect.
  This should be, we need to send a message back to the committee to fix this thing back the way it was, to strike out the provisions that are just pasted in there where it says things like from another country or state, that that should be taken out and it should be an International act.
  We need this protection, but this is going to be abused, I mean, lawyers love ex-parte custody orders. When I started practicing in '85 that was part of your stock in trade, if you could get your party ex-parte custody before the hearing came up a month later, your phone did not ring, the other attorney's phone would ring.
  We went to a lot of trouble, you guys passed Code of Civil Procedure Article 3945 a few years ago making it extremely difficult to come in and get temporary custody, you had to show immediate irreparable harm.
  And this has these factors like um, has previously abducted or attempted to abduct that could be taking the kid on a day when it wasn't your day. There is all sorts of things, Ms. Bowler is absolutely right, there is no number, what if you just meet two of them, I mean you don't have to meet them all, they terminate a lease, all of the things that happen when you are going through a divorce are present here.
458-E:6 I (5) Obtaining 'travel documents' (read that definition!) for their child to go to Disney World, or a football game in another state, or even a weekend at the beach?
458-E:6 I (1) Becoming unemployed during the current recession? (aka 'Abandonding employment to a divorce attorney)
458-E:6 I (2) Selling a house or terminating a lease (car or house !). (Note:  These are activities ALL New Orleans residents engaged in after Katrina)
458-E:6 I (4) Closing a bank account.  (Note: Just what exactly is an 'unusual financial activity'?)
458-E:6 I (6) Picking up their child's medical records.  (Note: This law applies to CUSTODIAL as well as NONCUSTODIAL parents)
458-E:6 I (6) Picking up their child's school records.  (Note: This law applies to CUSTODIAL as well as NONCUSTODIAL parents)
458-E:6 I (6) Picking up their child's birth certificate  (Note: This law applies to CUSTODIAL as well as NONCUSTODIAL parents)
Deconstruct the meaning of these two lines in the law:
So how does any ordinary good parent avoid triggering these two aspects of the law?
How many relatives do they need to have living in your state to meet the 'strong family connections to NH'?   One, five, fifty?
How much money do they have to have to meet the financial aspect of having a 'strong financial connection' to your state?  $10,000?  $100,000? $1,000,000
How on earth do they meet the 'emotional' connection to NH?  Just what on earth does that mean?  Do they have to cry for your state football team?  If they don't are they a potential child abductor?
And what is up with the 'cultural' connection?  What do they need for a strong cultural connection in your state?  Does that mean they can not be in a distinct minority community?
Now just in case you missed any Americans with the first part, now they must also meet the reverse test.
Having 'strong' family ties to another state is grounds for being considered a 'child abductor'? How many sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, or grandparents do we need living in another state to fall prey to this aspect of your law?
In Wallet v. Caulfield - Louisiana First Circuit court of appeals overturned a loopy judge who thought that a man who had a sister who lived in Brazil was sufficient grounds that to declare him an international flight risk. The appeals court would have put the flight bond on the mother or on both parents - who had a pattern and practice of moving away from the dad (3 times).
By the way, 'child abduction' is a FELONY - so you will be having the state courts in CIVIL court labeling people as 'potential felons'.  THIS IS NOT GOOD.
So perhaps the parent's families all live in your state.  They are still not safe.  What about those 'financial' ties to another state?  Better not own any vacation property in another state.
And what about the emotional ties to another state?  What does that mean?  Can you not be a fan of a football team in another state?  I guess not.
And what about those infamous 'cultural ties'?  What on earth does that mean.  How big a cultural community from your roots must exist in another state before good parents fall prey to this aspect of this horrendous law?
Rep. Bowler  Quote:
  "My reluctance with the bill, and it is with all due respect to this group of people, who got together and decided this was a good idea is that it does something, it departs from what I think is a real important concept in America and that is you are innocent until proven guilty, and this actually causes you to be penalized by a court for something they think you might do.
  I think that is a real departure in thinking in America to do that.
  I would hope that we would send this back to that group of Uniform lawmakers that come up with these models, say lets rethink this and I would hope that we don't pass it.

(f) Lacks strong familial, financial, emotional, or cultural ties to the state or the United States.
(g) Has strong familial, financial, emotional, or cultural ties to another state or country.

  Its not that I don't think the problem is serious enough to... In Louisiana we have in our statutes, which I think operates as a huge deterrent, is under our simple kidnapping law, we say that, "the intentional taking, enticing, or decoying and removing from the state by any parent his or her child from whom custody has been... blah, blah blah ... it creates within ... this bill is trying to address, we create in the definition of simple kidnapping and actually threaten somebody with a fine of $5,000, imprisonment for five years or both. I think that provides a real discouragement from any person in Louisiana doing what this bill seeks to prevent. Do we know how often this happens in Louisiana that we need to go to these extraordinary measure?"
  I think it had the potential to be a very great act, but it is now extremely flawed by adding the business about the state, being from another state will trigger these incredible sanctions against you. I don't know if it is appropriate to amend a Uniform Act its been done before because I remember the UCCJA when it was first passed, there were a couple of states with asterisk's by their name because they had taken some provisions out of it. {Rep Walker sits down} I think probably the best is to just not pass it, but if you do pass it you can.