Denying rapists parental rights snarls panel

2012-08-22T18:45:00Z 2012-08-23T10:45:06Z Denying rapists parental rights snarls panelBy Dan Carden dan.carden@nwi.com, (317) 637-9078 nwitimes.com
August 22, 2012 6:45 pm  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | A General Assembly study committee learned Wednesday that changing Indiana law to prohibit a rapist from having any contact with a child produced by his or her crime is not as simple as it might seem.

State Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, came up with the idea after a rape victim told him the rapist-father of her child was seeking custody.

In March, state lawmakers agreed with Charbonneau that something should be done and referred the issue to a study committee to hammer out the details. But members of the Child Custody and Support Advisory Committee found they had more questions than answers.

Lawmakers were divided on the standard of proof that should be required to deny parental rights — a criminal conviction or just clear and convincing evidence of rape? And what about a rapist who pleads guilty to lesser crimes that aren't specifically rape?

Questions also were raised about who could seek termination of a rapist's parental rights. In most cases the Department of Child Services can ask a judge for termination, but lawmakers suggested a rape victim should be empowered to do so.

The panel also puzzled over what to do in cases of rape within marriage, asked whether a rapist can be required to pay child support if denied visitation and wondered if acting in the best interest of the child might sometimes allow for contact with the rapist-parent.

Ultimately the committee, which included state Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, agreed existing laws concerning paternity, protection orders and child support provide enough tools to almost always deny contact between a rapist and a child produced by a forced sex act.

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