Do Rapists Have Child Custody Rights

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Child Custody on Friday, March 20, 2015.

In 31 states, a man who impregnates a woman through rape can sue her for child custody and timesharing rights. There are bills pending in Ohio and Pennsylvania addressing that issue.

According to an NPR radio station in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania State Senator Randy Vulakovich and Representative Joe Hackett are introducing the Rape Survivor Child Custody and Support Act in the Senate and House, respectively.

Under there bill, courts have the authority to terminate the parental rights of a father or mother convicted rapist. But at the same time, the rapist’s obligation to pay child support will remain.

I’ve written before about rape and custody. The issue of consent is important to the crime of rape, but is irrelevant in a civil action to determine paternity and child support.

Each year, there are approximately 32,000 pregnancies resulting from rape, according to a 1996 study by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Vulakovich says his bill will close a loophole in the law that is damaging to sexual assault survivors.

“If a victim of a rape decides to keep a child who was conceived because of the result of a rape, she could be forced under state law to constantly interact with a rapist on a regular basis if he demands visitation rights.”

Currently in Pennsylvania, a rapist’s parental rights are only terminated pending adoption of the child, in which case the offender is no longer required to pay child support.

“We’ve had calls from women who are exasperated,” Houser said. “The callers will feel like…’I’ve done everything right, I’ve done all the things I was supposed to do, and now I find out that he’s petitioning for visitation.'”

According to the most recent data, a 1996 study by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, approximately 320,000 women become pregnant as a result of rape. However, roughly one third of those pregnancies are terminated.

Houser says there are no clear statistics on pregnancy from rape in Pennsylvania. She also said few rapists try to pursue their visitation rights. State courts have the power to prevent unfit parents from claiming their visitation rights for several reasons, including crimes against the other parent.

“This isn’t necessarily the result of egregious things happening on a regular basis here in Pennsylvania,” Houser said, “but it doesn’t matter if it’s happening to a lot of people or just a few. It shouldn’t be happening at all.”

Without such a law, woman can endure years of being tormented by an abuser,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida.

The article is here.