Last fall, politician Todd Atkin faced widespread criticism after making a comment that women cannot become pregnant as a result of “legitimate rape.” The remark, while ignorant, did succeed in shining a light on the legal aspects of rape and child custody.
According to a recent study, an estimated 25,000 women in the United States become pregnant as the result of rape each year and one out of three of these women choose to keep and raise the child. In most states, though, these women do not have many legal protections—and their children’s fathers often have rights that make the situation even more complicated.
How Rape May Affect Child Custody Cases
Sadly, the majority of women who are raped never get to see their rapist convicted, either because the rape was not reported or because of a lack of evidence. Because of this, many rapists can fight for access to their children even in states that have laws to protect rape victims. A number of rape victims have also reported that their rapists use child custody laws as a way to escape charges—they may threaten to seek custody of the child unless the mother of the child agrees not to pursue the rape case.
It is important to note, though, that even though there may not be specific laws regarding rape and child custody, a judge will most likely take a rape conviction into account when deciding child custody, based on the best interests of the child.
Washington State Laws Regarding Rape and Child Custody
More than 30 states across the country do not have specific laws barring rapists from seeking child custody rights—and Washington is one of those states. While some believe that men should have the right to see their child or help raise their child, despite a rape conviction, others believe that giving a convicted rapist child custody or visitation can be harmful, both to the child and to the mother, who may still be traumatized by the event.
Washington State Divorce Attorney
As you can see, child custody laws are complex. It may benefit you to speak with a knowledgeable and experienced attorney about your case, especially if it involves special circumstances. To contact a Seattle divorce lawyer today, call the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny: 425-460-0550.