ACLU-PA Position: Opposes
Known as "Kayden's Law," SB 78 (PN 65) would require an evidentiary hearing during child custody proceedings to vet allegations—new or old—of abuse. The primary change proposed by SB 78 is to create a presumption that a parent with any history of abuse (no matter how old) against any household member will only be allowed supervised visitation. SB 78 specifically removes the requirement that a threat be ongoing. This bill would also expand the types of criminal convictions that must be considered against a parent, now including simple assault against any person. Combined, this will likely trigger traumatic suspensions of contact between mothers and their children, with nearly impossible barriers to reestablish contact, both because the presumption of supervised visitation has no expiration date and because of the enormous financial penalties that can accompany a finding of a history of abuse.
SB 78 would also provide that any parent found to have abused anyone in the household pay the attorney fees of the other parent, as well as paying other costs, including for supervised visitation. This threatens to separate poor parents from their children without any finding that they are a danger to the children, and exacerbates the imbalance between parents who can afford counsel for custody proceedings and those who cannot.
Drafted in response to the tragic murder of Kayden Mancuso by her biological father, there is no question that the intent of this bill is to protect children and avoid future tragedies. Unfortunately, as filed, SB 78 will likely harm the children and mothers it is designed to protect.