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Law to prevent abuse during court-ordered child visitations passes PA Senate

The legislation now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration


Five years after Kayden Mancuso was murdered by her biological father while on a court-ordered, unsupervised visit, a law to prevent such a tragedy from reoccurring, recently passed the Pennsylvania Senate unanimously.

Named in honor of the Lower Makefield Township 7-year-old, “Kayden’s Law” is intended to reform the state’s child custody statue by, among other things, adding seven crimes to the list of offenses a judge must consider before awarding custody and visitation privileges, lawmakers said.

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.

Senate Bill 55, which was co-sponsored by Sen. Steve Santarsiero, D-10, and Sen. Lisa Baker, R-20, will:

1. Strengthen the current factors judges must consider in making custody and visitation decisions, making the importance of 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.

“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,” said Santarsiero, in a statement. “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.”

The senator also thanked Sen. Baker for helping write the bill and get it through the Senate. He also thanked House Representatives Tina Davis and Perry Warren for their efforts.

Upon the bill’s passing, Sherlock said, “Every day children are at risk of being ordered to remain in abusive, unsafe and deadly situations. I vowed to do whatever it took to protect children and have found support from so many on this journey and with today’s overwhelming vote for Kayden’s Law we are one step closer to fulfilling our mission of ‘not one more.’”

The legislation now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

It’s not the first time the PA Senate has 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.

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