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Private custody transfers now strictly regulated in Wisconsin

Minnesota's neighbor to the east made headlines across the nation last week after becoming the first state to pass a child custody-related law expressly prohibiting an unregulated and otherwise dangerous practice known as "re-homing."

According to experts, re-homing is essentially when parents transfer custody of their adopted children who they no longer wish to care for to third parties they've only met on the Internet -- without notifying the government.

This rather unfortunate practice came to light earlier this fall thanks to eye-opening reports by journalists who uncovered how adopted foreign children were the most frequently victimized by re-homing, and how many of them wound up living in unsuitable and dangerous conditions.   

Somewhat shockingly, no state or federal laws expressly prohibiting re-homing actually existed prior to Wisconsin's recent actions. Furthermore, experts indicate that the state laws that are in place in the majority of states setting limits on custody transfers and advertising involving children are both arcane and provide for virtually no criminal charges.

All this changes with Wisconsin's new law, however, which mandates that 1) parents seeking a custody transfer to someone other than a relative must first secure court approval and 2) those looking to advertize a child over the age of one for adoption or any other type of custody transfer either online or in print must be licensed by the state.

Those caught violating the new law can face up to $10,000 in fines and nine months in jail.

"[The] reports outlined massive pratfalls in current law that allowed children to be advertised on social networks on the Internet," said Rep. Joel Kleefisch, sponsor of the legislation. "With virtually no oversight, children could literally be traded from home to home. In Wisconsin, that is now against the law. Hopefully citizens of the country will follow our lead."

Thus far, it appears as if Colorado, Florida and Ohio are indeed set to follow Wisconsin's lead, as all three have introduced similar legislation. Furthermore, a bipartisan group of 18 federal lawmakers is now looking to hold hearings to discuss the matter and take the necessary action to stop re-homing across state lines.

While the issue has yet to appear on the radar of Minnesota lawmakers, it may only be a matter of time …

Source: Reuters, "Wisconsin passes law to curb private custody transfers of children," Megan Twohey, April 17, 2014

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