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Women who conceive through assault may face child custody battles

When a woman is the victim of a sexual assault, it is always a possibility that she may become pregnant. This could mean that she is forced to contend with her attacker if he demands child custody. While Pennsylvania offers some protection for mothers in this situation, many other states are slow in passing legislation in this area.

A handful of states have no laws stopping a rapist from petitioning for custody of a child conceived through violence. Some have been moving toward legislation that would allow a victim of sexual assault to terminate the parental rights of her attacker, but after years of debate, no laws have been passed yet. In one state, a woman has sought to terminate her attacker's paternal rights before the child turns 3 months old, or she loses her opportunity.

In 20 states, a mother cannot file to have her attacker's rights terminated unless the assailant has been convicted of rape. The problem with this law is that only 36 percent of assaults are reported to police, and only 12 percent of rape reports end in an arrest. Of course, not every arrest leads to a conviction. In some places, the law does not apply if the convicted rapist is married to or living with the victim.

The law in Pennsylvania says that the court must find that the child was conceived through rape in order for parental rights to be terminated. This may be a difficult thing to prove in court. Because of this, parents of children conceived through assault may have to face each other for years battling over child custody issues. People facing these issues would benefit from the advice and assistance of a family law attorney.

Source:, "Where rapists can gain parental rights", Breeanna Hare & Lisa Rose, Nov. 17, 2016

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