Categorized | Divorce, Family Law

Arkansas Legislator Introduces Bill to Strip Custodial and Visitation Rights From Rapists

Posted in Divorce on December 6, 2012

State Rep. John Charles Edwards, a Democrat of Arkansas, filed legislation recently to remove parental rights from rapists who impregnate victims.

The bill was inspired by a Georgetown Law Journal article written by Shauna Prewitt, an attorney who had a legal battle with the man who raped her and fathered her child. Edwards said that he heard about Prewitt’s struggle and read the piece and was moved to introduce the legislation in Arkansas, where there was no protection for the mothers of children conceived during rape.

If it passes, it will bar men convicted of the rape of the mother from attempting to gain custodial or visitation rights with the child. Edwards stated that this would allow victims to sever potentially lifelong relationships with rapists.  The legislation would kick in following a conviction. Laws in other states differ on when custody or visitation can be prohibited. 31 states have no laws prohibiting rapists from seeking these rights.

While Edwards was researching the subject, he spoke with members of law enforcement who support a ban, including judges and prosecutors. He believes the law would provide more information to victims and aid them in making decisions if they become pregnant. Edwards said he is not aware of any cases in the state where a rapist has been granted custody, but wanted the restriction on the books pre-emptively.

Prewitt and others say that the states that still lack laws on the issue have not broached the subject out of ignorance of the need to. Where legislation has been provided, questions have come up about when parental rights would be removed. Edwards thinks the bill will receive a “fair hearing” in the Republican-controlled legislature and that its chances of being passed are good, though he has not yet discussed it with colleagues.  He will be gathering responses from fellow lawmakers on the proposed legislature and determine whether there are other proposals that could potentially change the final draft. Edwards stated that if there is anything lawmakers can do to have a law in place, the state will be in a better place.

Source: The Huffington Post, “Bill Strips Rapists’ Parental Rights In Arkansas, Ends Custody, Visitation,” John Celock, November 28, 2012.

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