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Legislation Named For Child Killed By Father Aims To Change PA's Child Custody Proceedings

Matt Rourke

Soon-to-be introduced bills in the state legislature aim to change how Pennsylvania handles child custody proceedings. If passed, the measures would create Kayden's Law.

Kayden Mancuso was a 7-year-old Bucks County girl who was killed by her father in a 2018 murder-suicide. Kayden was on a court-ordered unsupervised custody visit, despite her father having previous assault convictions. Kayden's mother also had a protection from abuse order against him. 

The state senate bill, to be introduced by Senator Steve Santarsiero (D-Bucks County), would require an evidentiary hearing in custody cases to vet allegations of abuse. If a credible allegation is found against a parent, they would only be allowed supervised visits.

Kayden's Law would also push the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts to require judges and some court personnel to be trained on the impact of child abuse and violence on children. State Representative Tina Davis, (D-Bucks County), backs the House version of the bill and says this piece is critical.

"We could have all the books, but it's still up to the judges in the end to make the decision," Davis said. "So we just have to better prepare them."

Brian Sherlock, Kayden's stepdad, said he hopes Kayden's Law saves lives if enacted.

"We're thrilled that we can get this bill in front of the House and Senate, but I wish I didn't have to be here," Sherlock said. "But I think if this were in place prior to last August that [Kayden] would still be here."