Photo credit: Kaydens Korner
The Pennsylvania Senate passed a law on Thursday aimed at reforming child custody.
Senate Bill 78, known as Kayden’s Law, is endorsed by both parties. It happened 46 to 4 and next leads to the Pennsylvania House.
The law was introduced by State Sen. Steve Santarsiero, a Democrat from Lower Makefield Township, and State Sen. Lisa Baker, a Republican serving the counties of Lucerne, Pike, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming. The two are the chairmen of the Pennsylvania Senate Judiciary Committee.
The Santarsiero office called the bill “a milestone in legislation that will save the lives of children”.
Kayden’s law would reform the custody hearing process by strengthening the factors that judges in Pennsylvania must consider when deciding on custody and visit abuse, and recommends the state court system to add an annual training program for judges and court staff.
“Make no mistake, if Senate Bill 78 is signed, it will save children’s lives,” said Santarsiero. “No child in Pennsylvania should ever be left alone with an abuser, period. Kayden’s law will help ensure that this never happens again. “
State Senator Steve Santarsiero speaking to reporters.
Photo credit: PA Internet News Service
Baker stated, “Too many terrible tragedies are being explained away on the unacceptable excuse that no system can protect everyone or foresee the actions of violent people. Our responsibility in protecting children is to take all reasonable steps to keep them safe from harm. “
In 2018, Kayden Mancuso, 7 years old, a Lower Makefield Township resident and Pennsbury elementary school student, was killed by her father during an unattended visit to Philadelphia. Her father, who had committed suicide, had a history of threats, but a district judge had authorized unattended visits. The girl’s death has put the spotlight on custody proceedings, including the national press.
State Representative Tina Davis, a Democrat from Bristol Township, and Perry Warren, a Democrat from Newtown Borough, both worked with lawyers on the issue, Santarsiero said.
Kayden’s mother, Kathy Sherlock, issued a statement in response to the Senate approval.
“We have worked so hard for years to make this day fair for Kayden and all of the children who are put at risk in family courts every day,” she said. “The Kayden Act could have saved my daughter if it had been in place in 2018. Let’s hope it will help other children who are currently suffering and at risk. “
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Pennsylvania rejected the law earlier this year. The group said the law could have “unintended consequences” for families.
The Kayden Act was first introduced in 2019 but was not passed by lawmakers until its 2020 term expired.
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