If you haven't heard about the remark made by Representative Todd Akin of Missouri, you've probably been out on a camping trip or something. This inflammatory statement has made a large splash in this election season and has all parties making statements to distance themselves from Akin.
Akin's statement was that "legitimate rape" doesn't end up causing pregnancies, according to the report by the Houston Chronicle. This statement has inspired writer and lawyer Shauna Prewitt to write an open letter on the website XO Jane to Representative Akin relating her experience of being raped and the child that resulted from the violent act. In concluding her letter, Prewitt mentions that many state laws allow for a rapist father to sue for visitation or custody.
Does Texas allow for a rapist to gain custody or visitation of a child born from this crime?
Unfortunately, this is not an easy question to answer. In general, an unwed mother is granted sole custody of a child. However, an unwed father can sue to be granted joint custody or visitation rights. In situations where the couple is married, joint custody is generally granted upon divorce.
Texas' child custody law does have a provision that deals with domestic violence. The statute states that if there is a history of violence between the mother and father, which includes sexual assault leading to pregnancy, that there is a presumption against joint custody or visitation of that child.
However, that limitation is only for two years after the incident. Once the two year limit has passed, the sexual assault will then create a presumption that it is not in the best interest of the child to have unsupervised visitation with the convicted parent.
This means that while it would be difficult for a rapist to obtain custody or visitation for the child born from their crime, but it is not impossible.
Hopefully judges are making sure that if a convicted rapist is coming back years after the incident and requesting custody or visitation that they are denied.
Akin's mistake has lead to tough consequences for his campaign, but good comes out of it if this issue is now on the national radar and up for discussion.
- Need a Houston Family Lawyer? (FindLaw)
- Information for Survivors of Family Violence Frequently Asked Questions (Attorney General of Texas)
- Custody of Houston Teen Mom's Twins Still Uncertain After CPS Involvement (FindLaw's Houston Family Law Blog)