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Can your rapist get custody of the baby you bore?

It seems both unfathomable and counter-intuitive to let the man who raped a woman and got her pregnant have custody and visitation rights to the child she bore. Yet that is what has already occurred for some hapless women.

A few years ago, a Massachusetts teen — just 14 —got pregnant by a 20-year-old man as a result of a rape. Another victim was raped and learned she was pregnant when she was a senior in college. She did everything right, pressing charges against him, only to be served with a petition for custody of her infant daughter.

After a nightmare court battle, she became a custody rights attorney in the Midwest, fighting to get all 50 states to pass laws denying rapists parental rights. Not only are these men predators, but they can use the threat of a custody fight to force a victim to drop charges or not testify. If she loses, she could wind up taking her child on court-mandated visits to prison to see her rapist.

Here in Massachusetts, visitation and custody can be restricted or outright prohibited, yet judges retain enormous discretion to make the call if they contend it is in the child's best interest to know his or her father. As quoted in the statute, no orders for custody or visitation for the rapist shall be granted "unless the judge determines that . . . visitation is in the best interest of the child."

If you are a Massachusetts woman who finds herself in that untenable position, a family law attorney can fight for your right to sole custody and termination of your rapist's parental rights.

Source: Rockland County Times, "Allowing ‘Daddy’ Status for Rapists," Diane Dimond, Aug. 11, 2016

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