A bill aimed at protecting the interests of children during custody battles has just advanced another step in the state legislative process.
After gaining unanimous approval in the state senate, Sen. Jake Corman’s , R-Centre, Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act seeks to prevent child abductions during custody proceedings, according to the senator’s legislative director, Scott Sikorski.
While the act doesn’t provide additional powers to judges, it gives guidelines for judges to use within custody disputes where a petition has been presented for a possible child abduction, Sikorski said.
According to a press release issued by Corman’s office, “more than three out of four cases of missing children involve abduction by a family member — usually a parent.”
Attorney Alyssa Knisely, from Shaffer & Engle Law Offices LLC in Harrisburg,said abduction may involve a parent removing the child from the legal custodial parent and failing to return him or her. This includes situations where a parent takes the child abroad, she said.
Knisely, who currently practices family law, also pointed to increasing national immigration rates as a contributor to parental abductions.
“Some other reasons [for abduction] may potentially include filing for child support [and] getting a one-up on the other parent for purposes of a divorce,” she said.
The act further allows for “interstate cooperation and federal notification” in case of a child abduction, as well as methods to locate families at risk for an abduction, according to the release.
Without such guidelines, there are multiple potential hurdles related to custody proceedings, Knisely said.
Sikorski said the bill is currently in the House Judiciary Committee. If it goes through, it will next be delivered to the House of Appropriations before moving to the floor for full vote and ultimately reaching the governor’s desk, he said.
Addressing how tumultuous custody battles may weigh on children, Lisa Kopp, Penn State assistant professor of human development, wrote in an email that parents represent a gating mechanism to the outside world, at least when children are young.
“Stressors like legal battles, relationship dissatisfaction, job stress and financial stress affect children proportional to how much the parent lets the stress ‘leak through,’” she wrote.