PA Legislature Passes ‘Kayden’s Law’ To Reform Child Custody Statutes 

The law is named after a Bucks County girl who was killed.

A view of the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg. File photo.

The Pennsylvania House has given final approval to a piece of legislation aimed at reforming the state’s child custody statutes.

The bill known as Kayden’s Law has been sent to Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro’s desk for his signature.

The bill, Senate Bill 55, received support from both sides of the aisle in the House and Senate.

The legislation was spearheaded by State Senators Steve Santarsiero, a Democrat from Bucks County, and Lisa Baker, a Republican from Northeastern Pennsylvania.

The bill passed the House with support from State Rep. Joe Hogan, a Republican from Langhorne Borough, and State Rep. Tina Davis, a Democrat from Bristol Township.

Named in honor of Kayden Mancuso, a seven-year-old from Lower Makefield Township who tragically lost her life in August 2018 during an unsupervised court-ordered visit with her biological father in Philadelphia. The visit came after a year-long custody battle. The bill’s namesake was a student in the Pennsbury School District and her murder spurred legislative action to prioritize children’s safety in custody cases.

Credit: Kayden’s Korner

Kayden’s Law introduces stringent requirements for judges in making custody and visitation decisions. It mandates that any court finding of an ongoing risk of abuse must include safety conditions in custody orders, such as supervised visitation, to protect the child. Additionally, the law encourages annual educational programs for judges and court personnel on child abuse and its impacts, Santarsiero’s office said.

“We are one step closer to protecting children in custody cases,” said 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.”

State Sen. Steve Santarsiero speaking.
Credit: Tom Sofield/

The bill, according to Baker, is a “responsible reaction” to the circumstances surrounding Kayden’s death, aiming to prevent similar outcomes in the future.

Davis expressed hope that the new law will prevent future tragedies.

“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,” Sherlock, Kayden’s mother, said in a statement.  “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.”

Rep. Perry Warren (D-31) praised the dedication of Kayden’s family and their supporters in pushing for the law, which he says ensures courts have the necessary guidance and resources to prioritize children’s best interests in custody determinations.

With bipartisan support and a focused effort on child safety, Kayden’s Law represents a significant step forward in reforming Pennsylvania’s child custody statutes, with the goal of preventing the repeat of such a devastating loss.

About the author

Tom Sofield

Tom Sofield has covered news in Bucks County for 12 years for both newspaper and online publications. Tom’s reporting has appeared locally, nationally, and internationally across several mediums. He is proud to report on news in the county where he lives and to have created a reliable publication that the community deserves.

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