Kyra Franchetti died in July 2016 at only 28 months old. Her death was the result of a court-sanctioned unsupervised visit with her biological father.
This led her mom Jacqueline to start The Kyra Franchetti Foundation, which brings awareness to how New York’s family court system often fails in handling family violence claims.
“I miss Kyra every single second of every day,” she said. “Our current court system in New York state protects the abuser, not the child.”
Today, the Long Island resident actively fights for reform. Three state legislature bills proposing family court reforms are currently in committee, including one known as Kyra’s Law.
These include establishing procedures for custody agreements amidst abuse allegations and training forensic evaluators in dealing with these allegations. Kyra’s Law aims to provide training for all family court officials and to keep the child’s health and safety in mind during these cases.
“They’re making life and death decisions, and that’s terrifying,” she said. “Our courts right now are using other factors and outweighing those over the health and safety of the child.”
She is optimistic about change in the family court system.
“I’m very hopeful that we’re going to see change become a reality,” she said. “I’ve spoken to so many of our legislators, they understand that things must happen.”
She also worked with other mothers to get a bipartisan U.S. House of Representatives resolution passed, which affirms that child safety should be the first priority in custody disputes.
“We have champions for children, both on the Democrat and Republican side,” she said. “This is not a partisan issue.”
The Breaking Point
Franchetti left her ex-boyfriend Roy Rumsey while pregnant after enduring verbal and emotional abuse. He reappeared after Kyra was born, wanting to have custody.
A Long Island court forensic evaluator shirked Franchetti’s claims of harassment and abuse. The judge allowed for joint custody of their daughter before the trial, despite her pleas.
“My jaw was on the floor,” she said. “I could not believe what happened.”
After staying with her father for a week in his Virginia home, he shot her, set his house on fire, and killed himself.
She died a few months before the first scheduled court hearings.
“Her father did play a huge role in her life,” she said. “He murdered her.”
Details of this incident were not independently verified by News to Stay Sane.
A Disturbing Trend
Cases like Kyra’s are tragically common. George Washington University law professor Joan Meier led a national study of 2,000 family court cases in 2019.
It found that when fathers use the parental alienation defense to dispute domestic violence allegations, mothers are twice as likely to be denied full custody.
Franchetti believes that family courts simply do not want to get involved in protecting children from abuse.
“There’s virtually no way to protect your child right now,” she said. “They just want to brush it under the rug, look the other way and move on.”
Victims, especially females, experience blame and shame when coming forward with abuse allegations. Much like with sexual harassment in the workplace, women face great backlash in revealing their trauma. Meier dubbed this issue as #FamiliesToo.
Franchetti conceded that women like her need to be taken seriously.
“It’s so important when victims do come forward, that we believe them and we support them,” said Franchetti.
For more information on Kyra’s Law, visit https://www.kyraschampions.org/kyraslaw#/1
This article is part of a series called “Breaking Families,” which puts a spotlight on the family court system’s failures in handling domestic abuse cases.