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Can rapists request child custody by law in Massachusetts?

Child custody concerns can come from many angles, but one interesting concern some clients have is what happens if an alleged rapist sues for parental rights. Technically speaking, the man suing for his parental rights in this situation is the biological father. These cases can be difficult, because not all kinds of rapes and sexual assault situations are the same. In truth, if the man was never convicted, it can be hard to deny him the right to see his child, but it’s possible to do so.

Fathers should have the right to see their children as long as they don’t cause duress or injury to the child or mother. In some cases, a man has already pleaded guilty to the rape of a minor or adult. What happens then? It’s possible for a mother to request child support from the man, so should he have a right to see his child?

In Massachusetts, there are no laws restricting the parental rights of men who are biological fathers of children birthed following rapes. Sixteen other states and Washington, D.C. have no laws regarding this situation, either. This means that anyone, those accused of rape or guilty of it, can petition for visiting and custody rights of their children.

Typically, violent felony convictions can result in a person having parental rights revoked, but each case has to be weighed individually. What is in the best interests of the child? What was the original situation and was the person accused ever convicted? These are important factors that a judge needs to consider before making a decision that will affect a child and his or her family for a lifetime.

Source: Economist, “A question of proof,” accessed Aug. 12, 2015

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