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Can fathers receive custody of children conceived through rape?

It may seem a silly question for most people in Dallas, but the answer may surprise residents: In many states, rapists can gain child custody, or at least visitation rights, with their children, even if that child was conceived through rape. It may seem paradoxical, especially since child custody issues in Texas are decided with the best interest of the child in mind, but there are very few restrictions against rapists being awarded some custody.

Why would a judge choose to give the person who raped a child's mother some degree of control and rights over a child? One reason is because after a father has been criminally accused of rape, he is not immediately convicted and sentenced to prison. Often times, he is out on bail while prosecutors and investigators gather evidence for trial. Throughout that time, a family court judge may allow the father to haves some custodial and visitation rights because, after all, it has not yet been proven that the father is actually a rapist. By the time the father is convicted, however, the child may have established a relationship with the child, one that a family court judge may not be willing to end.

Even though many states do not automatically strip rapists of all of their parental rights, some states do put hurdles in place for fathers who are convicted of raping their children's mothers. Though it is a consideration that a judge will take into account, it is not necessarily a ban on rapists from getting custody. Additionally, there are less than 20 states that put any kind of restrictions on rapists.

Not only would the safety of a child potentially be at risk with a former rapist, but it would be extremely difficult for a mother to have to live through seeing her rapist on a weekly basis. Though this situation may be relatively rare, it is important that anyone who is going through a difficult child custody battle works closely with family law attorneys that can help protect the parent and the child.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Child custody for rapists?" Todd Spivak, Sept. 27, 2012

Learn more about the many facets of child custody and visitation in Texas by visiting our website.

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