While JC Law provided extensive coverage on the changes to Maryland divorce that went into effect on October 1st, 2023, that isn’t the only new legislation impacting the practice of family law in the state. Another law—known as the Maryland Child Abduction Prevention Act—also came into effect on October 1st, and it has substantial implications for the litigation of ongoing and future child custody cases and the parties therein.
In this post, we’ll define just what the MCAPA covers, how it relates to preexisting laws in other jurisdictions, and what this new law means for Maryland courts and families going through custody litigation.
What is the Maryland Child Abduction Prevention Act?
In short, the Maryland Child Abduction Prevention Act allows state courts to enact preventative measures to block a parent or other custodian from abducting a child. This coincides with the existing Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act, a law that has already been adopted by 15 other states and jurisdictions, including Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.
Under the new law, “abduction” is defined as “the wrongful removal or retention of a child.” If a parent believes that there’s a threat of abduction, they can present appropriate evidence to the court, who will then determine whether to file an “abduction prevention order.”
The law provides an extensive list of the factors that may be considered as evidence for an order and, while not exhaustive, it does cover a wide range of actions or characteristics that may indicate a potential abduction, such as previous instances of domestic violence, the selling of a home, or even a parent having strong economic or personal ties to another country.
As for the orders themselves, the courts can impose a host of different preventative measures to keep the child from being abducted, such as travel limits, limiting or altering visitation rights, or even having law enforcement take physical custody of the child altogether. On top of this, failure to obey an abduction prevention order, like any court order, can carry serious consequences such as fines or even criminal charges.
Why is the Maryland Child Abduction Prevention Act Important?
While the rules and procedures laid out by the MCAPA may seem straightforward, it’s the law’s preventative nature that makes it such an impactful piece of legislation.
At JC Law, we’ve unfortunately seen many instances of a nasty custody dispute resulting in a child being abducted by one of their custodial parents, and it’s an extremely stressful, often terrifying situation for all involved. This law aims to prevent that from happening in the first place, hence the focus on notifying the court system ahead of time with risk factors that may preclude a possible abduction.
While families going through a divorce have historically had to designate measures to prevent abduction in the pages of their formal settlement agreements, this meant that those measures couldn’t be enforced or considered until the separation agreement was completed and ratified by the court, a process that can often take upwards of a year, if not more.
Now, a party has the ability to notify the court well before an abduction takes place, allowing the legal system to spring into action (if it deems it necessary) and stop the at-risk child from being abducted. This flexibility is further compounded by the lack of a preexisting court order (i.e. a custody or divorce order) being needed for action to be taken by a judge or law enforcement.
When in Doubt, Contact a Lawyer
With any piece of legislation, it’s natural to have a host of questions on how the new law may impact a specific case, and the MCAPA is no different. When those questions arise, a knowledgeable, experienced family law firm is the place to turn.
If you or a loved one are currently facing a custody matter or have questions about child abduction, the MCAPA, or anything else listed above, call JC Law toll free at (888) JCLAW-10 or click here to schedule your free consultation with one of our family law attorneys.
Remember, at JC Law, we aren’t just your lawyer. We’re your legal ally.