Child custody battles can be ruthless. There always seems to be one parent slinging unnecessary mud at the other to sway the judge's opinion. Traditionally, courts have determined custody based on the best interest of the child. To determine this, the court will look at different factors that would affect the child's safety, including:
- Which parent will allow the child to see the other parent regularly,
- Abuse by the parent or anyone in their household,
- How each party treats the child, and
- Which household would provide more stability for the child's education, family life, and community.
This list is not exhaustive, and many factors would influence a court's decision on child custody. Recently though, the Pennsylvania state Senate Judiciary Committee approved a Senate bill named that would explain to family court judges that they must consider the child's health, safety, and welfare first. State representatives for Pennsylvania have also introduced a sister bill into the House of Representatives.
These bills seek to place restrictions and conditions on child custody orders that would protect the child's safety if the court believed there was a risk or history of abuse. The court looks at the parents' past criminal or violent behavior if they have any, but they weigh these behaviors equally with the other factors they consider. This bill would ask these risky behaviors to weigh more than the others.
How this Bill Will Help
In the article above, Kayden Mancuso was just seven years old when her father killed her during a court-ordered, unsupervised visit. Her father had a record of violent and unpredictable behavior and was diagnosed with several mental illnesses, but there were no abuse allegations involving his daughter. The court-ordered psychological exam did recommend unsupervised visits for Kayden and her father, but only if her father began treatment for his mental illnesses. Despite this suggestion, the judge never required it.
If Kayden's Law had been in play then, Kayden's father's mental illnesses and violent temperament would have outweighed the other factors the judge considered. His child custody arrangement with her mother would have had court-ordered restrictions and conditions that he would have had to follow to see his child. These safety restrictions are essential additions to current law, but only if made fairly. They cannot just be the word of a vengeful parent.
How This Bill Could Hurt a Passive Participant
Child custody battles are ruthless games, and sometimes one side is so determined to hurt the other, they fail to consider how it will affect their child and their child's parent. With this new legislation, one parent could petition the court for a Protection From Abuse (PFA) order for themselves or their minor children. And many of the actions that are considered "abuse" can be ambiguous – only a judge can determine if a PFA is necessary. If it is granted, it can last up to three years.
A PFA may be considered a past conviction of abuse, and this factor will outweigh the other elements a judge considers when determining child custody. Thus, if Kayden's Law passes, and a vindictive parent decides to bring about unfounded abuse allegations, the other parent could be barred from seeing their child for years.
Why You Need a Family Attorney
Navigating family law court is tricky, especially during child custody cases when parents are usually at their worst. Having a skilled family law attorney on your side from the beginning of your negotiations is essential to ensuring the process is conducted civilly and with your interests at heart. It will also protect you from false allegations of abuse. Attorney Joseph D. Lento is an experienced family law attorney who fights passionately for each of his clients. Don't become a passive victim of a PFA or any other protective order. Call 888-535-3686 today to schedule a consultation.