Judges Who Fail to do Their Due Diligence in Abuse Cases Are Complicit in Murder

When parents split up, joint custody may be ideal. But in cases of abuse, shared custody can be deadly.

Throughout several custody hearings for seven-year-old Kayden Mancuso, her mother, Kathryn Sherlock repeatedly warned Pennsylvania Judge Jeffrey Trauger of the extensive history of violence by Kayden’s father, Jeffrey Mancuso. Kayden’s principal and teacher also provided testimony. Despite this, in 2018, Judge Trauger awarded Jeffrey Mancuso unsupervised visitation. Three months later, Mancuso brutally murdered Kayden.

Mancuso’s case is not an anomaly. Since 2008, 856 children nationwide have been murdered by a parent going through a separation, divorce or custody case — oftentimes, like in Kayden’s case, because family court judges gave an abuser unsupervised visitation. An estimated 58,000 children have court-ordered unsupervised contact with an abuser each year. The Center for Judicial Excellence, a nonprofit organization that advocates for judicial accountability, has identified hundreds of cases, including several in Pennsylvania, where the courts failed to prioritize children’s safety.

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