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Child custody rights afforded to rapists in many states

Friday, September 22, 2017

Parentage is difficult enough to broach in a divorce situation when both parents were willing participants in the conception of a child. However, in cases like the recent Ariel Castro trial, which many Texas residents have followed, child custody can be argued on the part of a rapist who sired a child with a victim. At present, thirty-one states do not have legislation in place designed to keep a rapist from claiming parentage of a child borne of the crime.

Every year, approximately 32,000 pregnancies across the country are a result of rape. While many of those pregnancies do not come to term, either due to medical issues or the mother choosing to terminate the pregnancy, as many as a third are brought to term. However, in a majority of states, the perpetrator of the original crime can come calling and have a legitimate claim to child custody under the current laws.

Many activists and legislators are working hard to change this glaring hole in existing laws for many states. Most recently, the Rape Survivor Child Custody Act works to limit the rights of rapists to claim parentage of children born as a result of a sexual assault. However, some are claiming the bill gives more power to judges than is necessary to prevent a rapist from successfully arguing parentage.

Not all child custody battles are as dramatic as those dealt with by the bill in question, but it does illustrate just how important it is for Texas parents to understand their rights and responsibilities under state and federal law. Determining custody of children in a divorce or separation situation can easily become this complicated. It is recommended that anyone facing such a situation educate themselves on the ins and outs of their local laws pertaining to child custody.

Source: CNN, "Child custody rights for rapists: Most states have them," Ed Payne and Ted Rowlands, Aug. 1, 2013