What the New Strangulation Law Means for Child Custody Proceedings

Posted by Joseph Lento | Jul 06, 2020 | 0 Comments

Governor Tom Wolf recently signed Senate Bill 275 into law, making it so that someone who has previously been convicted of strangulation can have that conviction considered during sentencings for future criminal cases. The new law also allows for someone who has been convicted of strangulation to have that conviction considered during child custody proceedings.

The General Assembly approved a law in 2016 that made strangulation a criminal offense. The new law, which goes into effect on August 4, 2020, will fully integrate that offense in Pennsylvania's laws to ensure strangulation is classified in the same way as other similar violent crimes.

“Domestic violence is a horrific crime and we must do everything we can to hold abusers accountable,” said Governor Wolf. “This new law is an appropriate step to protect victims and their children as they address the trauma caused by these experiences.”

Why this law exists

Before the 2016 strangulation law was passed, it was difficult for courts to handle domestic violence allegations of strangulation when the victim did not have an obvious physical injury or marks. The 2016 strangulation law makes it clear that a physical injury is not required to prove domestic violence strangulation, which makes it easier for people who are accused of abuse to be charged.

According to the 2016 law, someone has committed criminal strangulation when they knowingly or intentionally impede another person's breathing or blood flow by applying pressure to the neck or throat, or by blocking the victim's mouth and nose.

If you have been abused by a spouse or partner, or another member of your household, I can help you get a Protection from Abuse order to keep you safe from further threat.

What it means for child custody proceedings

In every state, including Pennsylvania, how custody of a child is assigned is based on what is best for the child, not what is best or most fair for the parents. A judge will look at the case from every angle in order to decide where the child should live, which is known as physical custody, and who should make decisions for the child, which is known as legal custody. One of the factors the judge will consider is if there has been any domestic violence in the home and if there is a continued risk of abuse or harm to the child.

A single episode of domestic violence, even if it results in a conviction, may not be reason enough for a judge to decline to award custody to the abusive parent, but any history of domestic violence in the past five years will be considered by the judge. The new law allows a strangulation conviction to be among the things the judge will consider when deciding the safest, healthiest environment for the child.

If you have been convicted of domestic violence, or if you have been the victim of domestic violence, and now are in a situation where who will get custody of your child will be determined by a judge, contact the LLF Law Firm at 888-535-3686. 

About the Author

Joseph Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento is a veteran of one of the nation's busiest family courts with nearly 20 years' experience passionately helping families. By day, he worked in the trenches of family court, and at night, he studied the law. He helped countless families while working at family court, and he went on to become an attorney, dedicating his law practice to continuing the work he started years earlier. Mr. Lento's experience both behind the scenes and on the front lines allows him to understand a client's family law matter from all angles, and allows him to find and employ the most effective strategies to get favorable outcomes for any client. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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