What are the parental rights of an individual who has been accused and convicted of sexual assault? Almost every state has a legal process to terminate the parental rights of the accused where conception occurred without consent, but Maryland is one of seven states that lacks such a process. Recently, legislation was proposed in Maryland to bring the state in line with the majority, but it failed to pass.
Approximately five percent of sexual assault victims become pregnant, according to the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Most of these non-consensual pregnancies occur in adolescents and only 33 percent of these women choose to carry the baby.
Legislative protection for victims of sexual assault varies in each state. In some states, an accused rapist has full parental rights unless the accusation results in a criminal conviction. In about half of the 50 states, the accuser only needs to prove by “clear and convincing evidence” that their assailant engaged in sexual assault. This is a lower standard than the criminal standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt,” but more difficult to prove than the “preponderance of the evidence” standard in a civil case. In Maryland, an assailant has the same right as any biological parent.
In 2015, Congress enacted the Rape Survivor Child Custody Act, a federal law that grants states additional funds for rape crisis centers and for victims, if the state allows termination of parental rights using the clear and convincing standard. By failing to enact legislation, Maryland has forfeited claim to these federal funds.
Case That Prompted Proposed Legislation
The impetus for this most recent proposal in Maryland was a case involving a 13 year old girl who was sexually assaulted by her stepfather. When the girl became pregnant, he told her that he would kill her if she told her mother about the ongoing sexual assaults. Due to mental health issues, she was unable to care for her child after having the baby. When protective services attempted to take the child, the stepfather had to be notified and sought custody. Her story inspired her social workers to create the most recently proposed legislation in hopes that it would prevent it from happening to someone else.
The proposed legislation would have authorized Maryland courts to terminate parental rights only after a full and fair trial, finding that the sexual assault occurred by “clear and convincing” evidence. The accused and the victim would have been afforded full due process rights. However, the victim would need to establish that the child was conceived of sexual assault.
Towson Child Custody Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC Represent Parents Involved in Sexual Assault Situations
The experienced Towson child custody lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC represent parents in custody disputes. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 443-589-0150 or contact us online. With offices conveniently located in Towson and Hunt Valley, Maryland, we represent clients in Baltimore County, Carroll County, Harford County and Howard County, including the communities of Baltimore, Towson, Essex, Columbia, Pikesville, and Bel Air.