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Congress Passes Law that Affects Child Custody in Rape Cases

On May 29, 2015, Congress passed the Rape Survivor Custody Act. The new federal law assists women who become pregnant because of rape and decide to keep their babies. The law provides stronger protection against the rapist when he is claiming custody rights to the child.

According to Yahoo News , studies show approximately 25,000 to 32,000 U.S. pregnancies result annually from rape. An estimated one third or more of the women in these instances decide to raise the child.

The Rape Survivor Custody Act boosts funding to states that permit women to petition for parental rights termination of the rapist. Better funding encourages states to help women take a stance. The other change the law introduced is a lesser burden of evidence is required for proving a child was conceived through rape: clear and convincing evidence.

Previously, women did not have much chance of protection unless the rapist was found guilty in a criminal court. Because the burden of proof in criminal cases is guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, many rape cases lacked sufficient evidence for a conviction. Consequently, the rapist, who would either not be charged or convicted, could continue to harass the woman, using a claim for custody as a means of continued torment. Clear and convincing evidence is a lower burden of proof than guilty beyond a reasonable doubt because it only requires proving that it was substantially more likely than not that the rape occurred.

Chicago attorney, Shauna Prewitt began advocating better state laws for raped women after pursuing and enduring a two-year custody case against a man who raped her. She’s quoted as saying that she has seen custody cases where the rapist has told the woman that if she drops the criminal case against him, he’ll drop the custody case or agree not to pursue parental rights.

At this time, 36 states address the child custody rape issue. However, many require a criminal conviction of the rapist. Although New York does not require rape conviction, it also has no provision to terminate parental rights of a rapist. Your attorney must convince the court that the father seeking parental rights is harmful to the child.

If you have concerns about custody, discuss them with Attorney Chris Palermo. He is committed to protecting your rights and providing you with compassionate and effective legal counsel.