Implications of Rape in Custody/Parental Rights

Pennsylvania has some of the best protections nationwide in the instance of mothers who opt to have a child following a rape. First, there is the potential that the rights of the natural father/perpetrator of the rape can be terminated. Pursuant to 23 Pa CS 2511(a), which lays out the grounds on which a parent’s rights can be involuntarily terminated, paragraph (7) provides for termination where “the parent is the father of a child conceived as a result of rape or incest.” While it is a plus that the law specifically allows termination of parental rights in a rape case, a party petitioning for involuntary termination will still need someone willing to adopt the child simultaneously with the termination which may cause a dilemma.

In addition to provisions regarding involuntary termination of parental rights, rape is also expressly addressed in Pennsylvania’s custody laws. Under 23 Pa CS 5329, the court is to consider criminal convictions, not just official charges, when making a custody decision. However, while the court must consider a rape charge, that doesn’t mean it can’t grant the father/perpetrator any custody time. Instead, the rape charge would just be one of several factors for the court to consider in determining what’s in the child’s best interests as is required for all custody decisions.

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