Back in December an interesting news report appeared out of Arkansas involving two Pennsylvania brothers who robbed a bank in Arkansas while their companion waited in the getaway car with her two children.
What happened next was an excellent example of how the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act can operate to expeditiously reach the right outcome for an interstate custody issue.
The children’s father in Pennsylvania, who had been in a three year legal battle with the children’s mother, immediately traveled to Arkansas after learning of the incident. A few weeks earlier, Mother had left Pennsylvania with the children with the children and two men intending to go to Arizona. When he arrived in Arkansas, the children were in the custody of the local Department of Human Services and could not be released to him. Presumably due to the circumstances, they were in the initial stages of Arkansas dependency process to determine whether they should be placed in foster care until a determination as to what their long-term placement would be.
Fortunately, it would appear that the UCCJEA operated as intended and the judges presiding over the custody case in Pennsylvania and the dependency judge in Arkansas, respectively, spoke and determined that Pennsylvania had jurisdiction over the children and the right to determine who may take custody of the children. Fortunately, having already arrived in Arkansas, their father was there to take custody and return to Pennsylvania.
No other reports have surfaced as to what happened to the mother. She was in the vehicle, so it is unclear whether she is being charged as an accomplice to the robbery. What is clear, however, is that after having absconded with the children and placed them in imminent danger, even if she is released and returns to Pennsylvania she has severely jeopardized her custodial rights.
Aaron Weems is an attorney and editor of the Pennsylvania Family Law Blog. Aaron is a partner in Fox Rothschild’s Blue Bell, Pennsylvania office and practices throughout the greater Philadelphia region. Aaron can be reached at 610-397-7989; firstname.lastname@example.org, and on Twitter@AaronWeemsAtty.