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Kayden’s Law gets the governor’s signature


Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro this week signed Kayden’s Law, designed to prevent child abuse during court-ordered visitations.

It is named for Kayden Mancuso, the Bucks County 7-year-old who was murdered by her biological father during one such visit in August 2018.

The bipartisan Senate Bill 55, co-sponsored by Sen. Steve Santarsiero, D-10, and Sen. Lisa Baker, R-20, passed unanimously late last year in the Senate. The Pa. House of Representatives passed it March 25 by a 119-82 vote. The bill received near-unanimous support from Bucks County legislators with only Rep. Craig Staats, R-145, in opposition.

"I am very happy to hear that Kayden's Law, formerly SB 55 and now Act 10 of 2024, has been signed by Governor Shapiro," Santarsiero said Tuesday. "Pennsylvania law will now protect children and lives will be saved."

The new law, which will take effect in four months, is intended to reform the state’s child custody statute by, among other things, adding seven crimes to the list of offenses a judge must consider before awarding custody and visitation privileges. It will also:

1. Strengthen the current factors judges must weigh in making custody and visitation decisions, making protecting the child the most important factor.

2. Ensure that if there’s a finding by the court of an ongoing risk of abuse, that any custody order includes safety conditions and restrictions necessary, including supervised visitation, to protect the child.

3. Encourage the state’s Supreme Court to implement an annual educational and training program for judges and relevant court personnel on child abuse, adverse childhood experiences, domestic violence and its impact on children.

Following the December Senate vote, Santarsiero issued a statement crediting the child’s mother with keeping the bill in the minds of legislators.

“Kayden’s Law has been a years-long collaborative effort, led by the tireless advocacy of Kayden’s mom, Kathy Sherlock, along with family law advocates and experts,” he said. “Kathy’s strength and dedication have continued to motivate me to push for this legislation and get it to Gov. Shapiro’s desk to be signed into law.”

It was not the first time the PA Senate passed the bill. In June 2021, Santarsiero and Baker succeeded in getting Kayden’s Law, then Senate Bill 78, through. But it languished in the PA House Judiciary Committee until the session ended 18 months later.

Santarsiero lives in Lower Makefield, Kayden Mancuso’s home township.

The girl’s biological father — Jeffrey Mancuso, 41 — was granted the unsupervised visitation with his daughter after a long custody dispute. While he had a history of violent behavior, he had not been violent toward his daughter, according to court records.

Following Kayden’s murder, he died by suicide and was found in his home in the Manayunk section of Philadelphia.

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