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Rapist Rights in Child Custody Cases

Rapist Rights in Child Custody Cases

Yes, you read the title correctly.  Rapists, believe it or not, have legal rights when it comes to the seeking custody of the child born from the sexual assault.  In 31 states, a rapist can sue the victim for custodial rights but in none of those states does the victim have a right to sue the perpetrator for child support.

According to Snopes, “No aspect of that preface suggested that victims of rape “cannot” seek child support, only that laws in some states are structured in a manner that effectively discourage or present difficult-to-surmount barriers to such action.

The primary claim, that 31 states allow a rapist to sue a victim for custody and visitation rights, is far murkier. Unrelated actions decided upon by the Supreme Court in the mid-1990s have upheld state authority over federal authority in cases pertaining to rape.

A possible source for the “31 states” assertion appears to be a 31 August 2012 item published by The Atlantic titled “31 States Allow Rapists Custody and Visitation Rights.” That piece referenced a 2010 law journal article about what might be called a legal loophole, while observing that between 2010 and 2012, several states had amended their laws.”

However, attention to the outrage has compelled some states to take a second look and pass legislation that provides some protection for the victims.  “Seven states don’t have any laws preventing a rapist from claiming parental rights, but that’s not to say that these states are oblivious to the issue. Maryland, for one, has been working for years to pass a law that would allow a rape victim to terminate her attacker’s parental rights.

Forty-three other states and the District of Columbia have legislation that offers at least some protection to prevent rape victims from facing their attackers over parental rights; eight of those laws were just adopted in 2016.”

In considering this issue, it’s important to remember that it is not there have been laws enacted to offer legal rights to rapists.  What has happened is that legal loopholes and legal minutiae allow for this to happen.  Once we’re aware of it though is when something needs to be done to correct it.

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