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Helton Law Firm, PLLC

Parental rights after pregnancy results from sexual assault

Many Tennessee women have experienced a sexual assault in their lives. One of the most difficult and traumatic repercussions of non-consensual sexual contact occurs when a pregnancy results from a rape. Statistics indicate that approximately one woman of three in such a situation will carry that child to term. Unfortunately, issues within the American legal system mean that, for many of these women, there are still more difficulties that they must face.

Even if an accused rapist has been convicted, they may still retain some parenting rights in a few states, although not in Tennessee. This puts women in the difficult predicament of being forced to share parental decisions and responsibilities with them, and it has happened that the rapist or accused rapist has used their rights as a bargaining chip to escape prosecution or punishment.

For example, it is common for a convicted rapist to be compelled to pay child support. However, they may have visitation rights to the child as well. Cases have occurred where convicted rapists offered to voluntarily cede all claims to custody in exchange for the mother dropping the child support claim. This can put the mother in a terrible predicament. She can protect her child from having to interact with the person who raped her, but she and her child will have to give up all the financial support that should rightfully be theirs.

Any woman who finds herself in a similar situation may wish to consider consulting with an attorney. It is imperative that she protect her rights and the rights of her child, and the attorney may be able to demonstrate to the court that granting a rapist father parental rights would not be in the best interests of the child, even if a conviction has not been obtained.

Source: Salon, "Parental rights for rapists? You'd be surprised how cruel the law can be", Eric Berkowitz, Oct. 4, 2015

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