Parental rights in the case of rape

Parents in Texas and other states often have a difficult time reaching custody agreements when they are not in a relationship or are going through a divorce, but some women face a veritable nightmare when choosing to have a baby after being raped. In certain instances, the father of a baby wants rights or threatens to seek rights in exchange for something else. For example, a North Carolina woman said she was told by her rapist that he would give her permission to place the baby up for adoption if she did not testify against him at his trial.

About one-third of rape victims get pregnant and decide to go through with a pregnancy. The parental rights of rapists can be terminated in 35 states, including Texas, but a conviction is needed in most of them before this occurs. This can be a problem, as only about 5 percent of rape cases result in convictions while less than one-fifth of rapes get reported.

There is some good news as the federal Rape Survivor Child Custody Act that was passed in May 2015 allocates money to states where laws exist that deny parental rights to rapists if the mother can show that she has been raped. This will often be by demonstrating “clear and convincing evidence in a family court, which is a lower standard of proof than that required in a criminal trial.

In child custody cases where rape or violence against a mother or child occurred and no criminal conviction has been obtained, an attorney may be able to help a mother prevent a perpetrator from getting legal or physical custody. This can in some instances be accomplished by demonstrating to the court that granting those parental rights would not be in the best interests of the child.