The Pennsylvania legislature is currently reviewing Senate Bill 78, a custody reform initiative called Kayden’s Law. The bill would require court investigations in custody cases involving abuse allegations and make other changes to place safety at the forefront of child custody.
Review the provisions of the law to understand how it may affect future Pennsylvania custody proceedings.
Background of the law
According to the text of the bill, Kayden Mancuso died at the hands of her father during an unsupervised custody visit. The state allowed visitation without supervision despite a years-long history of domestic abuse, assault convictions, and untreated depression and suicidal ideation. The Pennsylvania Senate reports the extent of this tragic issue, citing a review of 4,000 custody decisions in which 81% of parents with an abuse history received unsupervised visitation or custody.
Impact for Pennsylvania families
Although cases such as Kayden’s are fortunately rare, Pennsylvania strives to improve the custody process to prioritize child safety. If passed by the House, Kayden’s Law will:
- Create decision factors with a stronger emphasis on child protection for mandatory judicial consideration in custody cases
- Implement custody restrictions such as supervision in all cases involving history or pronounced risk of domestic abuse, no matter how long ago the parent committed a violent offense
- Require judges and court staff to undergo annual education on the impact of childhood abuse, trauma and violence
- Expand considered criminal offenses to include all instances of simple assault
After a unanimous Senate passage in January, Kayden’s Law is under review by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives as of July 2021.