On April 15, 2024, Governor Shapiro signed into law new legislation, referred to as “Kayden’s Law.” This law will take effect on August 15, 2024.

The legislation amends several statutes, which are already in effect, pertaining to child custody. These changes and additions require the court to give substantial consideration to the health, safety and welfare of the child in making an award of custody. Some of the most significant changes are as follows:

1. Expands or amends the custody factors which the court shall consider in entering an order:

The new legislation expands the factors enumerated at 23 Pa. §5328, which the court must consider in entering an order for custody. The court shall give weighted consideration to those factors which effect the safety of the child, including which party is more likely to ensure the safety of the child and the present or past abuse committed by a party or household member, which must include a current or past protection from abuse or sexual violence protection order in which there has been a finding of abuse and violent or assaultive behavior committed by a party.

2. Expands the list of criminal offenses to be considered by the court: The amended statue expands the offenses which a party or household member has been convicted or pled guilty. The court shall consider the same in determining whether he or she poses a risk of harm to the child before making any order of custody to that party. This includes simple assault, recklessly endangering the welfare of another person, interference with child custody and offenses related to cruelty to animals/animal fighting.

A conviction of the offenses outlined above and any additional offenses outlined in 23 Pa. C.S. §5329(a), is not in itself determinative when awarding custody. Rather, the statute provides that the court should consider the totality of the circumstances before entering an order which is in the best interests of the child(ren).

3. Professional and non-professional supervisors: If the court finds by a preponderance of evidence that there is an ongoing risk of abuse to the child, there then is a rebuttable presumption that the court allow only supervised physical custody between the child and party who poses the risk of abuse.

The court shall favor professional supervised physical custody. The court may award non-professional supervision if professional supervision is not available within a reasonable distance or the party requiring supervision is unable to pay and the court designates an adult to supervise the visits, who has appeared in court and executes an Affidavit of Accountability. The court must also make a finding on the record that the supervisor is capable of promoting the safety of the child.

Resolving issues related to child custody and visitation is often the most disputed issue in divorce proceedings, so why not put the power of one Bucks County’s top family law firms in your corner? Contact us at 215-340-2207 or email info@bucksfamilylawyers.com.