Letter: ‘Kayden’s Law’ is in best interest of children


Next session, our state Legislature must pass legislation that clarifies how family court judges should address the harms of family violence in family court.

Under current laws, family violence victims, especially women and children, suffer harm from how family courts review abuse evidence and decide where children will reside. These problems in family courts, which have been recognized by experts in Congress and the United Nations, are a pressing problem in Washington’s family courts.

To be clear these cases are not “high conflict” custody matters. These are the exceptional, high-risk cases that too often involve lethal domestic abuse. Children — and the parents protecting them — desperately need judges to increase safety and follow Washington’s decades-long public policy to prevent domestic violence.

The good news is that we have two strong examples in the newly revised Model Code on Domestic and Family Violence and in the “Kayden’s Law” provisions of the federal 2022 Reauthorization of Violence Against Women Act. The new Model Code was published in 2022 by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges as a resource for state legislatures. Its approach aligns with the approach in Kayden’s Law.

Kayden’s Law protects children, parents and our communities by requiring family judges to first consider the potential impact on children from domestic abuse before moving on to apply the traditional “best interests of the child” custody test. Kayden’s Law would provide clear legal guidance for judges and bring millions in federal funding to train Washington judges assigned to family law cases.

Evangeline Stratton

Family Violence Appellate Project, Washington

Monte Jewell

Project DVORA at Jewish Family Service