Many States Allow Rapists Some Form of Child Custody Rights, But NOT California

875413_balance.jpgRape is a violent, horrifying crime. It would seem that a woman who finds herself pregnant after such an assault suffers doubly. If that woman makes the choice to carry the baby to term and raise the child, many states offer some level of visitation and custody rights for a man who impregnates his victim. While that may be incredibly difficult to believe, it is true. Fortunately for women in San Diego, California has a law that explicitly prohibits a convicted rapist from gaining any custody rights. An experienced, local Family Law attorney would be able to help parents who are facing complex issues associated with child custody matters like this one.

The applicable law is California Family Code Section 3030(b), which restricts custody and visitation rights in the case of rape resulting in conception of the child, but the law requires a rape conviction. One would imagine that requiring a rape conviction before restricting custody rights serves to protect the biological father’s interests, but that doesn’t always help the victims of the assault. According to one article on the subject, many rapes go unprosecuted. The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network reports that only 9 out of every 100 rapes are prosecuted and a mere five lead to a felony conviction.

According to another recent news article, 31 states provide some kind of visitation and custody rights to the rapist. In this scenario, the rape victim could potentially be required to co-parent with her assailant. Even though the concept is difficult to imagine, a 2010 report estimates that between 32.3 percent and 64 percent of women carry and keep the children who were conceived during rape. At least one state is taking steps to eliminate this injustice. Colorado legislator, Representative Lois Landgraf, sponsored a new bill that would block rapists from exerting parental rights. She is seeking to put an end to a system where victims are required to have some relationship with the rapist.

The bill has already passed the Senate. But even if the bill becomes a law, it would only apply to rape convictions that occur after July 1, 2013. For women who have not secured a rape conviction against their assailant, the Colorado bill proposes that a task force be formed to investigate parental rights when there have been allegations of sexual assault without a conviction. The law does not automatically protect the victims of rape. Rather, victims would have to file a petition in juvenile court to prevent any future contact with the rapist-parent. On a more encouraging note, under the bill, convicted rapists would not be relieved of any obligation to pay child support unless the victim waived that duty.

Under California law, when courts decide child custody and visitation issues, the primary concern is what is in the best interests of the child. Fortunately, California is one of the states that will not afford a convicted rapist custody rights, and as such, that effectively takes the question of whether a rapist could have custody of his biological child out of the court’s hands.

If you are a parent with questions about child custody and visitation matters, you are encouraged to contact Doppelt & Forney today. Mr. Doppelt is a dedicated Coronado family lawyer with more than 20 years of experience representing parents in Southern California. Doppelt & Forney serves clients in Scripps Ranch, Linda Vista, Encinitas, San Diego, and throughout Southern California. For a free consultation, contact Doppelt & Forney through the law firm’s website or give us a call toll-free at (800) ROY IS IT (769-4748).

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