Washington Law Review


Ann T. Wilson


The number of divorced parents has increased dramatically since 1970. Consequently, the number of custody disputes has risen. In our increasingly mobile society, it is not surprising that many of these disputes occur across state lines. Extended litigation creates additional uncertainty and instability for children involved in these disputes. In response to this growing problem, Congress enacted the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act of 1980 (PKPA). The PKPA requires that state courts enforce and not modify the child custody determinations of other states. The duty to enforce arises if the initial custody determination meets certain conditions. 6 Despite the existence of the PKPA, interstate custody disputes continue to be a problem, and parents have sought resolution of these disputes in federal court. Congress did not explicitly create a private, federal right of action to enforce the PKPA's provisions. The federal courts are divided over whether litigants are entitled to enforce the PKPA in federal court. Those courts concluding that the Act does not create a cause of action in federal court are correct in their interpretation of the PKPA. However, the states have not dealt effectively with interstate child custody disputes and the underlying problem remains unsolved. For these reasons, this Comment recommends that Congress amend the PKPA to allow federal court enforcement of custody determinations in limited circumstances.

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