Kayden’s Law Passes House, Heads to Governor for Signature

HARRISBURGMarch 25, 2024 − Critical legislation to save children’s lives is heading to Governor Shapiro’s desk after final passage in the House today.  Senate Bill 55, also known as Kayden’s Law, is legislation that provides urgently needed reform to Pennsylvania’s child custody statute. The bi-partisan legislation is sponsored by Senators Steve Santarsiero (D-10) and Lisa Baker (R-20), and is named for Kayden Mancuso, a seven-year-old from Lower Makefield Township, who was killed in August 2018 by her biological father during a court-ordered, unsupervised visit granted following a year-long custody dispute.

“Today is a great day.  Today we are one step closer to protecting children in custody cases,” said Senator Santarsiero.  “This 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.  Kayden’s Law is finally headed to the Governor for signature and, when signed into law, will save children’s lives by ensuring the safety of the child is paramount in custody cases and that no child will ever again be placed alone in a dangerous environment.”

“Whenever we have a heartbreaking loss such as Kayden, it is our obligation to make sure the circumstances cannot be repeated, to the greatest extent possible under law and human judgment, said Senator Baker.  “Punishment of the perpetrator is not enough.  This bill required a great deal of debate and advocacy to reach the point of passage.  Adding seven crimes judges must take into account is a responsible reaction to the suffering Kayden endured.”

Kayden’s Law will:

  • Strengthen the current factors that judges must consider in making custody and visitation decisions, to make it clear that the most important issue is the protection of the child;
  • Ensure that if there is 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; and
  • Encourage the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania 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.

Sen. Santarsiero continued, “I want to thank my colleague, and friend, Sen. Lisa Baker, for her partnership in writing the bill and helping it get through the Senate. I also want to thank my House colleagues Tina Davis and Perry Warren for their work on this issue. Most of all, I want to thank Kayden’s mom Kathy Sherlock for her courage and conviction to educate the public, lawmakers and court personnel on the importance of this issue.  This bill cannot heal the grievous wound that Kathy and her family have suffered, but by protecting our children moving forward, I hope it will give them some measure of solace.”

“More than five years ago I vowed to do whatever it took to protect children, and today, our mission of ‘not one more’ is becoming a reality in Pennsylvania,” said Kathy Sherlock.  “It should never be the case that children are ordered to remain in abusive or unsafe situations. I am grateful for Senators Santarsiero and Baker and Representatives Davis and Warren for their dedication to making sure we got legislation passed that puts commonsense safeguards in place to save children’s lives.  I also want to express my profound appreciation for the advocacy and guidance of Danielle Pollack and the National Family Violence Law Center.”

“The tenacious work of Kathy Sherlock, the Sherlock and Giglio families and their legion of supporters has been rewarded with the passage of this lifesaving legislation,” said Rep. Perry Warren (D-31). “In the wake of unspeakable tragedy Kayden’s family and friends’ dedicated their efforts to ensure that courts have the guidance and resources to make the best interest of the child the top priority in child custody determinations. Thank you to everyone who has worked to make this goal the law in Pennsylvania.”

Rep. Davis added, “Kayden Mancuso’s death was a true tragedy. While the passage of this law cannot undo her untimely death, it can hopefully prevent this from happening to another child and another family.”

Senate Bill 55 now goes to Governor Shapiro for signature.


Kayden’s Law Clears Senate Judiciary Committee in New Term

BUCKS COUNTY— January 25, 2021 — Senate Bill 78, known as Kayden’s Law, was unanimously voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee this afternoon, one of the first bills to move out of the committee since the start of the new session.  The bi-partisan legislation is sponsored by Senators Steve Santarsiero (D-10) and Lisa Baker (R-20), and is named for Kayden Mancuso, a seven-year-old from Lower Makefield Township, who was killed in August 2018 by her biological father during a court-ordered, unsupervised visit granted following a year-long custody dispute.

“In the two years since Kayden’s death, I have been working with Kayden’s family and experts in the field of child abuse and child custody issues, to craft legislation along with Representatives Tina Davis (D-141) and Perry Warren (D-31), the sponsors of the legislation in the House, that would make a fundamental change to Pennsylvania’s child custody law,” said Sen. Santarsiero.  “Kayden’s death was a senseless and avoidable tragedy that shook our community, and together, the legislature can prevent others from experiencing this type of grief and loss.  We must ensure the safety of our children is the most important concern in contentious custody battles.”

“It is our duty to do everything within our power to protect the most vulnerable individuals within our communities, and I am pleased that this legislation will help to better protect children across our Commonwealth,” Senator Baker said.  “Our current state law failed to ensure the health and safety of Kayden, which was a heartbreaking tragedy, but, unfortunately, not unique.  This bill requires a court to consider certain critical factors to ensure that the health and safety of children are weighed before custody of a child is awarded to any party or parties.”

Kayden’s Law was voted unanimously out of the Senate Judiciary Committee in September 2020, during the previous Senate session.  With the start of the new session in January 2021, all bills that were not passed in the previous session must be re-introduced and begin the legislative process anew.

At the time the bill was passed out of committee in September 2020, Sen. Santarsiero said, “Never again.  That should be our vow as lawmakers.  Never again should one of our children die or be abused because Pennsylvania law does not do enough to protect them. The tragedy of Kayden Mancuso’s death demonstrates that the current child custody law does not in fact do enough.”