This week, Senator Lori Berman (D- Palm Beach) and Representative Michael Grieco (D- Miami) filed SB 1106/HB 781.
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 this year. Days prior to 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, SB1106/ HB781 would remedy its absence.
Senator Berman stated, “Protecting our children must always be at the top of our priority list as legislators. Creating a coercive control definition will help establish the long-known psychological pattern of using mental, emotional, financial and/or other abuses in domestic situations to become quantified in punishable steps by the court, especially as it relates to child custody. Greyson’s life was cut way too short for reasons that were preventable and it is imperative we protect all the other Greysons in our state.”
Representative Grieco added, “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 781 will hopefully prevent another tragedy.”