kayden's law

Kayden’s Law: new investigative story by PublicSource looks at child custody in PA

Photo by Alex Jones via Unsplash.

Claim abuse, lose custody: National data shows that when women in custody battles report abuse by their husbands, courts too often follow the controversial theory of “parental alienation” and reduce the accuser’s custody. A new bill making its way through Pennsylvania’s statehouse aims to curb this trend.

But nearly five years after it was introduced, that bill has not yet passed either full chamber of the General Assembly. Is this bill created to protect kids finally gaining traction?

This morning PublicSource published a detailed investigative report by a team of writers, including Kidsburgh’s events writer Meg St-Esprit. The story explains the history behind Kayden’s Law — named after 7-year-old Kayden Mancuso from Bucks County, who was murdered by her father in 2018 during court-ordered unsupervised custody time, which had been granted despite the mother raising safety concerns during custody litigation.

St-Esprit and her cowriter Erin Yudt tell the story of women including a mother referred to as Inara, who was both relieved and terrified when a child development professional first told her that they would be filing a Childline report on behalf of her toddler. St-Esprit and Yudt write:

The Pittsburgh mother of one was fearful her then-husband would hurt her child once she disclosed the abuse, but her worry poured out to the child development professional. “One weekend I broke down before her because of what had been happening, and she then told me that, ‘You and your daughter are no longer safe here,’” said Inaya, whose real name is being withheld out of concern that publicity might result in negative consequences.

Inaya had been enduring what she described as increasingly threatening tirades and promises of violence: throwing items, breaking down doors and descriptions of physical harm that would come to her and her child if they did not comply. Once the Childline report was filed, Inaya knew the risk had surged, and she had to leave.

“That’s when I called up the women’s shelter, and she said, ‘Just pack two sets of clothes for yourself and your daughter and come right here.’ OK, and so that’s what I did.”

She believed that would be the start of a new — and safer — life for her and her toddler.

Instead, five years later, Inaya’s ex-husband has primary custody and she is only permitted to see her child for two overnight visits per week, which she says amounts to about 13 to 15 waking hours. The case has included testimony brought by an expert witness called by her ex-husband who said that physical and sexual abuse might be less harmful to a child than “parental alienation.”

It’s a difficult story to read, but an important one — especially for anyone coping with a custody battle where abuse has been a factor.

If you’d like to read the full story, you can find it right here.

This story was originally published by PublicSource, a news partner of Kidsburgh.org. PublicSource is a nonprofit media organization delivering local journalism at publicsource.org. You can sign up for their newsletters at publicsource.org/newsletters.