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Parental Rights of Rapists? In Florida, There are None

In the United States, it is estimated, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, that there are approximately 17,000 to 32,000 pregnancies annually that occurred as a result of sexual assault and rape. These statistics are considered fairly conservative, as the actual number is unknown due to the fact that a significant number of rapes are never reported. The number of these pregnancies that actually result in a baby is also unknown, but the decision to carry that baby to term is one full of fear, anguish, and stress.

Parental Rights are Fundamental

Parental rights are fundamental in family law, as protected by the U.S. and state Constitutions. However, a parental right is not an absolute right because at the foundation of the right is the “best interest of the child.” In Florida, “best interest of the child” reasoning dictates parental rights, custodial rights, and ultimately, who will be responsible for the love, care, and raising of the child. Parental rights are fundamental and should be protected at all costs. If your parental rights are being threatened, it is important to speak with an experienced family law attorney.

States Around the Country are Split on the Rights of a Rapist to the Child

The states of the United States are split as to the parental rights due to a father who raped a mother that led to the pregnancy and birth of the child. Generally, a biological parent has a strong and fundamental argument regarding his or her parental rights to a biological child. However, where rape is at the center of the issue, the statutory lines are unclear.

For states such as Alabama, Maryland, North Dakota, New Mexico, and Wyoming, there are no laws that protect a sexual assault victim from their rapist’s parental rights demands. As of September 2016, Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, and Michigan put forward legislation to terminate parental rights of rapists. Florida, along with 42 other states including the District of Columbia, have some laws on the books to terminate the rights of rapists. However, almost half of these states require that to terminate the parental rights of a rapist, a criminal court must have already convicted the assailant for rape before entertaining a rape victim’s parental rights termination submission.

Florida Law Terminates Parental Rights of Rapists

Florida is one of the states that has legislation that strongly supports the rights of rape survivors. According to Florida’s statutes, a rape survivor may terminate the parental rights of his or her rapist if the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the child was conceived through an act of sexual battery. The parental rights are terminated once clear and convincing evidence has been accepted by the court because of the “best interest of the child” reasoning. In the court’s view, if a child was begot as a result of an act of sexual battery, the termination of the parental rights of the rapist is presumed to be in the “best interest of the child.” There is not rebuttable presumption, though the rapist may try to appeal according to due process rights.

The law explicitly states that though the court and the state believe that reasonable efforts should be taken to preserve the family as a unit and as a value, but that the foundation of this principle lies in the “best interest of the child” and where this interest is not at the forefront of the argument, then the request shall fail.

Please contact West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein for a confidential consultation.

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