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Kayden’s Law Is Now Pennsylvania Law – For Better Or For Worse

New legislation may help some children and may harm others.

Kayden Mancuso was a seven-year-old girl who was tragically beaten to death in Manayunk by her father, Jeffrey Mancuso, during his court-ordered unsupervised custody time in the summer of 2018; Mr. Mancuso then killed himself. Kayden’s mother, Kathy Sherlock, had previously submitted evidence of Mr. Mancuso’s violent history to the court during their custody case, including his criminal history and the issuance of a protection from abuse order against him for having threatened to kill family members. Despite this evidence, Mr. Mancuso was permitted unsupervised custody time with Kayden because there was no evidence presented that he had abused Kayden. Kayden’s murder led to the creation of legislation aimed at protecting children from Kayden’s fate.

A new law, signed by Governor Shapiro on April 15, 2024, has created a rebuttable presumption that a parent with a history of abuse or convictions for certain crimes, including simple assault or recklessly endangering another person, will only be allowed supervised visitation, indefinitely. Although the new law may provide needed protection for some children, the application of this law may disproportionately impact racial minorities, who are more likely than their white counterparts to be arrested for the same crimes. [1]

Prior to Kayden’s law, judges in custody proceedings were already required to consider past criminal conduct and findings of abuse and were permitted to impose conditions on visitation or custody to protect children from harm. Abuse only needed to be found by a preponderance of evidence and thereafter a judge could relegate a parent to supervised visits at the judge’s discretion. Kayden’s Law significantly expands the types of criminal convictions that must be considered by judges, including, as stated above, simple assault against any person.

The rebuttable presumption of supervised visitation may lead to traumatic, long-term suspension of contact between parents and their children. In most counties in Pennsylvania, there is no free or low-cost supervision offered by the court; this means parents relegated to supervised custody may have to pay a professional supervisor or not be able to see their children at all. This will disproportionately impact low-income individuals and families.

In my law practice, I handle all types of custody matters, from the simplest to the most complex. I encourage you to contact me at Jerner Law Group for help with your case.

If you are experiencing domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-SAFE or visiting www.thehotline.org.


[1] https://phillyda.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/RACIAL-INJUSTICE-REPORT-2023.pdf.