Colorado Child Custody & Kayden’s Law

Colorado Child Custody & Kayden's LawThere is a prevailing notion in Colorado family court that shared parenting will encourage cooperation between parents, and that “parental alienation” could be corrected through reunification programs. However, in cases where one co-parent is abusive, it exposes the child to danger. No child should ever be compelled by the court to be in the sole company of a dangerous abuser.

Awarding custody to an abuser may seem like an uncommon scenario in family court. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Often, each parent’s parental rights seem to outweigh considerations for the child’s best interest. This is apparent in numerous cases where protective parents raise concerns of abuse.

Colorado has passed new legislation, commonly called Kayden’s Law, to protect children from a parent’s abuse within the context of family law proceedings.

How Kayden’s Law Protects Vulnerable Children in Colorado

Kayden’s Law safeguards vulnerable children through several measures, including:

  • Raising the bar for child custody expert testimony – Experts in child custody cases must now be qualified professionals with demonstrated expertise in handling cases of domestic violence or child abuse, including child sexual abuse. Rep. Meg Froelich, who was the primary advocate for Kayden’s Law, stressed that abusive parents could previously leverage their financial resources to hire experts to discredit abuse accusations.
  • Removing reunification programs – The court shall not order any “reunification treatment” unless there is scientifically valid and widely accepted evidence demonstrating its safety, effectiveness, and therapeutic value.
    In the past, when a parent claimed parental alienation, certain reunification “camps” would put children in their care while cutting off contact with the trusted caregiver. This led to cases of child abuse, as the children were left with no supervision from a protective party. These programs operated without regulation, lacked strong scientific support, and did not adhere to a standard of care.
  • Safeguarding custody for protective parents – Prior to Kayden’s Law, the protective parent might lose custody of their child after raising allegations of abuse against the other parent. This was supposedly because the courts wanted children to have an improved relationship with their “alienated” mother or father. Now, the legislation prohibits restricting custody of a protective parent based on this notion.
  • Training court professionals – The new law requires judges, court personnel, family investigators, and custody evaluators to undergo evidence-based training on the subject of family violence. This training should focus on the latest research and understanding of family violence.
  • Expanding child abuse evidence – Kayden’s Law in Colorado also requires judges to carefully analyze relevant evidence of abuse, which may include arrests, convictions, and permanent protection orders related to family violence. Certain forms of evidence, such as letters from victim advocates, were previously considered hearsay and excluded from hearings, but may now be admitted in court.

Origin of Kayden’s Law

Officially titled the Keeping Children Safe from Family Violence Act, Kayden’s Law is a federal statute that incentivizes states to improve child protection in custody cases.

The federal law draws its name from the tragic case of Kayden Mancuso, a 7-year-old girl from Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Sadly, Kayden’s life was cut short when her father took her life during court-ordered unsupervised custody time. This custody arrangement was approved despite the mother repeatedly expressing safety concerns during the custody litigation.

Colorado recently became the first state to enact a state-level Kayden’s Law, which is legislation modeled on the federal Keeping Children Safe From Family Violence Act.

Training Requirements for Child Abuse Experts

The formal training requirements for court-designated legal professionals involved in child custody cases, such as Child & Family Investigators (CFIs), Parental Responsibilities Evaluators (PREs), and Child’s Legal Representatives (CLRs), are outlined in C.R.S. 14-10-127.5(5)(a):

  • The initial training consists of a 20-hour program.
  • Subsequently, a minimum of 15 hours of ongoing training must be completed every five years.

These training sessions specifically focus on areas related to domestic violence and child maltreatment. The curriculum includes subjects like emotional maltreatment control, bias, and understanding the cycle of violence.

Contact a Child Custody Attorney in Colorado

Kayden’s Law in Colorado has significant implications for parents and children in a custody case. If you’re a parent hoping to secure child custody, you’ll want to have a knowledgeable and skilled attorney on your side.

The lawyers at Goldman Law, LLC have successfully represented numerous clients through the complexities of the Colorado legal system. We can provide sound legal advice and excellent representation in your family law proceedings. 

Reach out to us at (303) 656-9529 and we’ll set up your confidential consultation.