The Paternal Rights of Sex Offenders
It might be an unthinkable scenario, but unfortunately, it is all too real: a rape victim who has conceived a child during a sexual assault must go to court to prevent her assailant from asserting his parental rights. Depending on where you live in the United States, the laws may not fully protect victims from such a horrible situation.
California Parental Rights
In California, residents are afforded only partial legal protection. According to state law, “If a person is convicted of sexual assault in California, that individual loses custody and visitation rights to any child conceived during the attack.” Unfortunately, there are many scenarios where a conviction is NOT achieved, for instance, because the victim wants to avoid any possible stigma from a long court case.
Other states allow a woman to petition the court to terminate the parental rights of an alleged assailant even in the absence of a conviction on the grounds that it is in the best interests of a child. Unfortunately, California has no such law.
There are, at an estimate, tens of thousands of rape-related pregnancies every year. Despite their prevalence, many states have been slow to enact laws that protect mothers who have been the victims of sexual assault. Why should these women, if they decide to carry their babies to term, face difficult litigation to terminate the rapists’ rights?
No woman should be faced with this scenario. Victims of sexual assault should not suffer the double indignity of having to face their assailant in court in order to protect their child.
Fortunately, there are other laws that can be indirectly applied. For instance, California prohibits awarding custody to any parent who has previously been convicted as a sex offender. So in situations where the assailant was not convicted of rape for the assault that resulted in a pregnancy but was found guilty of a previous offense, the law would strip his custody rights. Many people who commit sexual assault are repeat offenders, so this is a roundabout way of protecting victims and their children.
Legal Help for Victims
If you or a loved one has been the victim of sexual assault that resulted in a pregnancy, you deserve to receive full legal protection from your assailant. If you have any questions or concerns about your situation, the experienced San Diego child custody attorneys at The Law Office of Thomas M. Huguenor can help. Contact one of our knowledgeable representatives at (858) 458-9500 to schedule a free consultation.