On April 30, the Florida legislature unanimously passed a bill that would prevent a convicted rapist from exercising any custody rights over a child that is born as a result of the sexual assault committed upon the child's mother. The bill previously passed the Senate. It will be presented to Governor Christie for a signature prior to becoming law.
Currently, 19 states have laws that allow a mother whose child was conceived as a result of rape or incest to terminate the biological father's legal custody. A federal appeals court has ruled that there is nothing in the United States Constitution that prevents a state from penalizing a man by terminating his parental rights when a child is born as a result of his criminal behavior.
The new law would allow the mother to terminate the father's parental rights if it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that conception was the result of a sexual battery. This is a lower standard of proof than in a criminal case, which means that a man who is acquitted of rape or sexual assault may still have his rights terminated. The law also provides for termination where there is evidence of a criminal conviction.
A lawyer may be able to seek paternity tests to prove the identity of a child's father and use that information to seek child support. Where a child is born through a sexual attack upon the mother, the lawyer may be able to bring suit to have the man's parental rights terminated to protect mother and child.
Source: The Tampa Tribune, "Florida bill will prevent rapists having custody of kids," April 30, 2013
Source: The Tampa Tribune, "Florida bill will prevent rapists having custody of kids", April 30, 2013