Legislature passes 'Greyson's Law' to safeguard children at risk of parental harm.
Greyson's Law is the unfortunate product of the tragic death of 4-year-old Greyson Kessler, who was the victim of a murder-suicide involving his father in May of 2021. Greyson’s Law enhances the protection of a child from possible abuse, harm, or retaliation by one of their parents.
The Court will now be required to consider threats against ex-partners or spouses when making child visitation and custody determinations in court. The expanded factors are as follows: evidence of domestic violence, whether a parent in the past or currently has reasonable cause to believe that they or a minor child is or has been in imminent danger of becoming the victim of domestic violence or sexual violence by the other parent, even if no other legal action has been brought or is currently pending in court.
The bill was first introduced and filed in the Florida State Senate and House in late 2021. Senator Lori Berman, D- Palm Beach, and State Representative Michael Grieco, D- Miami, filed "Greyson's Law" to help reform yesterday's archaic and outdated family court laws. Greyson's Law 2.0 was re-filed for 2023 by Senator Lori Berman (D-Boca Raton) and Representative Hillary Cassel (D-Dania Beach) as SB 130/HB 97.
This bill is the unfortunate product of the tragic death of 4-year-old Greyson Kessler, who was the victim of a murder-suicide involving his father in May of 2021. Days before the murder, Greyson's mother, Ali Kessler, filed an emergency petition with Broward Family Court outlining her imminent fears for the safety of her child. In the days leading up to the shooting, Greyson's father sent multiple disturbing and threatening communications to Ms. Kessler, but Florida law has no formal mechanism that allows for threats directed at a parent to create a nexus with a child. Moreover, "coercive control" is currently not contemplated in Florida domestic violence law; the legislation would remedy its absence.
Senator Berman stated, "Greyson's life was cut way too short for reasons that were preventable. Greyson and Ali were failed by so many layers that should have protected them. It is imperative that we safeguard all the other 'Greysons' in our state. I am proud that we worked closely with the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar to ensure a final product that we can come together on in order to shelter our children in dangerous situations. I look forward to this bill's passage in honor of Greyson."
Representative Cassel said, "Threats to a child's safety cannot be ignored. Greyson was denied his future because a law like this didn't exist to protect him, and we must make sure that no other child meets the same fate. This unspeakable horror is a learning moment for our state, and I am proud to work alongside Senator Berman to make Florida a safer place for all of our children."
Greyson's mother, Ali Kessler, stated, "Greyson's death can't be for nothing. There has to be a reason why a happy and healthy 4-year-old boy was taken from this world, and maybe it was for this greater cause. If a bill like Greyson's Law existed when I begged the court and police for help, I fully believe my sweet boy would still be alive. I am happy other children and families may have a fighting chance."
The Family Law Section of The Florida Bar applauds Senator Berman for her tireless effort and hard work on Greyson's Law and thanks Representative Cassel for sponsoring this legislation in the Florida House," said Philip S. Wartenberg, Magistrate of the 13th Circuit and Chair of the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar. "We believe, in its current form, this proposed legislation will assist in providing for better protection and safety for Florida's families and children."
"Anyone who places a tracker on a co-parent's vehicle or tells them that their 'head should be separated from their body' or that they 'deserve to die' should not only be enjoined from contact with the recipient of the stalking or threats but their custodial rights should be immediately evaluated. There have unfortunately been hundreds of preventive cases in the United States in which a disturbed parent murdered their child in a twisted effort to punish the other parent or themselves, but Senator Berman and I have now chosen to prioritize this issue here in our state. Florida law failed Greyson and Ali and the passage of HB 97 will hopefully prevent another tragedy," Grieco said.
This bill is the unfortunate product of the tragic death of 4-year-old Greyson Kessler, who was the victim of a murder-suicide involving his father in May of 2021.