News about a controversial case has drawn the nation's attention to Massachusetts, where a judge has to answer the serious question of whether a convicted rapist should be entitled to visitation of the child who was conceived as the result of his criminal conduct.
Family law courts in Massachusetts are used to dealing with child custody issues, but rarely have to make a decision on such a perverse set of facts. The attorney for the mother of the child is making that argument, claiming that a family law court shouldn't be ruling on what is really a criminal matter.
The mother was just 14 at the time of the rape, and though she pressed charges, she decided to keep the baby. The father was age 20 at the time and his attorney claimed the incident was consensual. The judge sentenced him to 16 years probation. The conditions of his sentence included that he adheres to the rulings of the family court and acknowledges paternity. Now he is seeking visitation rights. The attorney for the mother filed a motion requesting the man to pay restitution as opposed to child support, which would eliminate any parental or visitation rights.
Massachusetts is one of 34 states that has not established statutory guidelines for this type of situation, so the limitations on a rapist's rights to visit a child who is the product of a rape are still undecided in this state. Among the states that have laws in place, nine have allowed for or required the rapist's parental rights to be terminated as a matter of law, while seven states require or allow the court to strip the rapist's custody and visitation rights.
Family law issues such as custody and child support issues are difficult enough under many circumstances. For a parent to be put in such a precarious position as to be forced to allow a child to visit a legally recognized parent who poses a potential danger to the child is disconcerting. Protecting one's parental rights is just as important as protecting the health and well being of a child.
Source: Fox 25 News, "Rapist wants visitation rights; teen mom fighting back," Mike Beaudet, Kevin Rothstein, Sept, 24, 2012