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Convicted rapists may lose parental, custody rights in Florida

In Broward County, there are a variety of reasons for unmarried couples to establish paternity when they have children together.

Establishing a biological relationship between a father and child may prevent fathers from losing their children to adoptions without their consent or knowledge. Establishing paternity is also important for fathers who want to have parental rights and child custody or visitation rights. When mothers make sure biological relationships are established between their partners and children, mothers may be able to secure their ability to receive child support in the future.

Establishing paternity may give fathers parental rights in many cases, but there are some situations in which fathers may not be granted parental rights or child custody rights after establishing paternity. For example, a parent's addiction to alcohol or drugs, or a parent's struggle with a mental health problem may jeopardize one's parental rights and custody rights. And if a newly proposed bill is approved by Florida lawmakers, convicted rapists may also lose parental rights and custody rights of their children that are conceived from rape.

Nearly 20 states already have laws in place that allow states to take away convicted rapists' parental rights, custody rights and visitation rights of children that are fathered during acts of sexual assault or incest. Earlier this week, the Senate Criminal Justice committee voted to pass a similar law in Florida. The committee's vote was unanimous. The proposed bill will now move forward in the Florida Legislature.

If the bill is passed, women who conceive children from acts of sexual battery may be able to have their requests to terminate their rapists' parental rights approved with ease. However, fathers who are accused of rape must be convicted of the charges before their parental rights can be terminated.

Source: The Miami Herald, "Bill would prevent rapists having custody of kids," April 2, 2013

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