By Mike Stetzer
April 5, 2007 — While the threat of a parent abducting a child during a divorce or child custody case can be difficult to determine, a proposed law in Kansas would at least help courts identify situations where this threat is credible and then spell out what judges can do to prevent such actions.
After being approved by the state Senate in January, this proposed Kansas divorce law was recently passed by a unanimous 123-0 vote in the House of Representatives. This Kansas child custody and divorce legislation is currently waiting for a signature from Governor Kathleen Sebelius.
While this proposed Kansas child custody law would not provide judges with any new legal remedies, it would at least provide them with a set of criteria to help determine whether the threat of parental abduction is credible, according to a story in the Lawrence Journal-World.
Specifically, this proposed divorce and child custody law in Kansas would let courts take into account certain claims or actions by parents during their cases. As just one example, courts would be allowed to consider whether one parent has threatened to abduct a child during a divorce in Kansas.
Courts would also have the power to review whether one parent has already sold a house, applied for a passport, refused Kansas child custody orders or done other specific things. Judges would then be able to act in the best interests of the child when making Kansas child custody decisions.
This legislation spells out what judges could do when dealing with this threat of parental abduction during Kansas divorce and child custody cases. Citing just a few examples, a judge could impose travel restrictions on the parent, prohibit the removal of the child from Kansas, order that the child be returned to the state, and put restrictions on custody and visitation rights.
According to the legislation, judges could also issue a warrant rather than a court order for the abducting parent to immediately return the child to Kansas. Judge Anthony Powell said in the Lawrence Journal-World story that a warrant brings more urgency to the situation and that people tend to respond to warrants as opposed to court orders.
Domestic relations lawyer Ronald W. Nelson helped champion this bill in the Kansas Legislature and said in the story how it would bring order to the parental abduction threat, which he described as the "Wild West."
This specific legislation was drafted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws with the hope that it would be enacted in all states. Nebraska and South Dakota have already adopted this legislation into law.
In addition to Kansas, legislatures in Colorado, Connecticut, Nevada, South Carolina, Texas and Utah are considering this bill.