Berman & Asbel, LLP

Bill allowing courts to end rapists' parental rights pending

The Pennsylvania Senate has given its overwhelming approval to a bill that would make it possible for courts to curb the parental rights of rapists who father a child as a result of their crime. The House appears to be on track to do the same.

This is an issue that has been the source of a lot of legal dispute for some time. According to lawyer Shauna Prewitt, who fought such a battle for two years after her own alleged attacker sought custody of the daughter that was conceived, says there are perhaps 10,000 women who face similar circumstances every year in the U.S.

The law currently in Pennsylvania allows courts to terminate parental rights when rape is involved only in cases where an adoption is pending. And in such cases, if the rights of the father are terminated, so are child support obligations. As long as support obligations are in force, the chance of a child custody fight remains.

Under the measure now before the legislature, the courts would be allowed to deny convicted rapists any level of custody of a rape-conceived child. But the elimination of those rights would not end the offender's child support requirements.

A check of the bill's history on the legislature's official website shows that it passed the Senate unanimously. That sent the measure to the House where it is now pending. In initial procedural action, the bill has enjoyed nearly unanimous backing. The House's chief parliamentarian says it remains on the docket and likely will see further action when the House returns to session later this summer.

Source: WHTM-TV, "Pa. Senate passes bill supporting rape victims," Myles Snyder, June 25, 2015

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