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Most states have child custody rights for rapists

After an Ohio judge denied a request for Cleveland kidnapping suspect Ariel Castro's visitation plans with the six-year-old girl he fathered from one of the women he kidnapped and raped, Cuyahoga County Judge Michael Russo thought the reason seemed pretty clear cut, stating, "I just think that would be inappropriate."

However, as hard as it is to believe Castro would have any parental rights, in 31 states, rapists do enjoy the rights of a father. Of the 31, Ohio is one of those states, which in turn has no laws that would take away Castro's parental rights for fathering the child with Amanda Berry, whom he abducted in 2003 when she was a teenager.

A not to dissimilar situation existed for Shauna Prewitt, who was raped when she was a senior in college. Her daughter was six months old when she found out that the man who raped her wanted partial custody. Prewitt is now a custody rights attorney, working to enact federal guidelines to push states to pass laws that strip rapists of parental rights to children they fathered through rape.

Recently passed legislation, called the Rape Survivor Child Custody Act, would do exactly that in providing incentives for legal initiatives on the state level to help women secure full custody of children conceived through rape. "Without such a law, a woman can endure years of being torment by an abuser," said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida.

According to a 1996 study by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, each year approximately 32,000 pregnancies occur as a result of rape. And while the majority of those pregnancies were terminated, as many as a third of the women gave birth.

Prewitt kept her daughter, in part, because, as she states, being pregnant helped her get through the pain of being raped. Critics, however, state most cases aren't so clear cut, especially as it's been argued that judges currently have enough power to prevent unfit fathers from seeing their children.

Issues of child custody can arrive from some of the ugliest and unspeakable scenarios. Even so, it is a situation that needs to be addressed. Make certain your attorney is well-versed in child custody issues no matter who or what circumstances are involved.

Source:  CNN, "Child custody rights for rapists? Most states have them" Ed Payne and Ted Rowlands, Aug. 01, 2013

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