ACLU-PA Position: Neutral
Last session, the ACLU-PA opposed Kayden's Law (SB 78). However, this session, as SB 55, Kayden's Law has been amended and as a result, the ACLU-PA changed its position from opposed to neutral.
SB 55 (PN 1169) now offers greater clarity and precision and addressed most of our concerns with the underlying bill, specifically regarding the following provisions:
- Supervised custody: SB 55 changed the presumption for supervised physical custody to now require an on-going risk of abuse. This addressed our concern that the court could consider any history of abuse to require supervised custody, regardless of how old or attenuated the facts might be. This updated provision would balance the need to protect children from real credible threats of abuse and the ability for parents to still exercise some physical custody.
- Protection from abuse orders (PFAs): SB 55 now clarifies that the criteria for awarding custody has been tailored to include PFA orders only where there is a finding of abuse. This addressed our concern that the bill may have permitted any PFA order to be considered when awarding custody, including PFAs that are the result of consent and not a hearing. Tailoring the criteria to require a finding of abuse means that parties submit evidence at a hearing, the judge weighs the evidence and makes a finding of abuse on the record. This protects due process and ensures that allegations are supported by fact.
- Criminal convictions: While the ACLU-PA continues to be concerned about including a simple assault conviction among the criteria for determining custody, SB 55 would clarify that a criminal conviction alone is not determinative in awarding custody. Ensuring that a conviction must be considered in the totality of the circumstances of what is in the best interest of the child provides some buffer against using a conviction as a blunt instrument, especially convictions for simple assault.
Check the bill's status here.