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Michigan bill seeks amendment to child custody law in cases of conception by rape

Custody disputes can be a difficult matter to face for couples who have had a falling out or whose marriage has failed. Obviously, custody matters can be highly emotional, with parents bringing a lot of personal history to the table. Even more challenging, in some ways, are cases—rare though they may be—where the custody dispute involves a parent, typically the father, who came into the picture through rape.

Under current Michigan law, a man who rapes and impregnates a woman may only have his parental rights terminated if he is convicted of felony rape. It isn’t always the case, though, that prosecutors are able to secure such a conviction, which leaves these women in a situation where they may have to face their attacker and possibly even cooperate with visitation times. For women who have been abused, facing this possibility can be extremely emotional and upsetting.  

Fortunately, here in Michigan lawmakers in the House of Representatives have approved a bill that would do away with the felony rape conviction requirement and would lower the bar for terminating parental rights for a father accused of rape. The law does this by altering the burden of proof for termination of parental rights to match it with the standard required to terminate parental rights for parents accused of abusing or neglecting their children.

The bill, which is an amendment to the Child Custody Act of 1970, directs courts to deny custody and visitation time to a parent convicted of rape or certain other offenses or who have been found to have committed rape or certain other offenses by clear and convincing evidence, unless the other parent or the child’s guardian consents.

In our next post, we’ll continue looking at the bill and the more general issue of terminating parental rights.

Source: Michigan House of Representatives, House Bill No. 4481

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Michigan bill seeks amendment to child custody law in cases of conception by rape | Peter A D'Angelo, Attorney at Law, PLC