Recently a court in Massachusetts ruled that a rapist had the right to seek custody of the child conceived from the crime. Although it should be noted that this decision does not mean that the rapist will obtain custody of the child, the idea of having to go to court and fight for your rights against the the person who attacked you is a concern of people in Pennsylvania too. In Pennsylvania, the legislature has debated multiple laws to prevent or restrict rapists from obtaining custody of their children. Currently in Pennsylvania the parental rights of a rapist can be terminated if you are able to prove that a rape occurred to conceive the Child. However, there is no law officially barring a rapist from gaining custody of the product of their crime unless you are able to prove that a rape occurred.
As noted above, however, allowing a rapist to have rights to seek custody of a child does not in and of itself allow a rapist to have custody of the child. Even if they are permitted into the court system to seek custody of the child, the Best Interest of the Child would still apply, which means any criminal record or abuse that one parent has would be considered by the court. Because the standard of proof in Pennsylvania family court is the preponderance of the evidence, there is less of a burden to prove that these events occurred than there would be in a criminal court.
Also, one of the things that the court takes into consideration when making a custody decision is the criminal record of both parents. Although this is not one of the statutory custody factors, that court requires that each parent submit a criminal and abuse history affidavit for themselves and their household, which requires them to disclose whether they have been convicted or plead guilty to any of thirty crimes that the legislature has determined may pose a threat to to children.
If you have any further questions regarding this issue, please feel free to contact our Pittsburgh office today!