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Bill would force rapists to pay child support, terminate custody

A bill that would force convicted rapists to pay child support toward victims who bear their children has progressed to the next step of the Pennsylvania legislative process. Current law allows women to seek the severance of a man's parental rights if he raped her; that is, he cannot have custody or visitation rights. However, a legal loophole prevents a woman from receiving child support from that man if his parental rights are terminated. A new bill would permit rape victims to pursue the termination of fathers' rights while still maintaining child support eligibility.

Legislators who are sponsoring the bill say that rape victims are twice victimized by the existing Pennsylvania statute, which has an unfair effect on lower-income single moms who need the financial assistance. Lawmakers say that mothers should not have to choose between maintaining a relationship with their attacker and facing financial hardship. This bill will be continuing forward into the House after initial consideration.

Pennsylvania is one of just a handful of states that allow mothers to terminate fathers' rights if she was a rape victim. Twenty-six states permit rape victims to put their children up for adoption without the father's consent, however. Several others also limit fathers' visitation, only permitting custody considerations for the rapist parent if the visits would be in the best interests of the child.

Rape victims deserve financial support after going through such a serious trauma. This change to child support guidelines may help rape victims become more financially independent and provide a better environment for raising a child. Although these parents are certainly in the minority, they still deserve to have their everyday expenses covered by their children's fathers.

Source: The Express Times, "Pennsylvania bill regarding rapist's parental rights, child support moves forward" Colin McEvoy, Jun. 11, 2014

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