Sponsored Post – Victims of rape in Maryland will soon have the opportunity to have the parental rights of their assailant terminated upon presentation to the court of clear and convincing evidence that rape occurred.
The law, which has been debated in the Maryland House since 2007 as legislators tried to come up with a fair way to terminate parental rights in the absence of a rape conviction, has now passed the Maryland House and Senate. The law will allow a court to terminate the parental rights of an assailant at a lower standard of proof than is used for criminal convictions. This lowered standard was one of the primary sticking points.
Requests for termination of parental rights (TPR) can be made in the absence of rape, and prior to this bill, the mother of a child born of rape had to pursue termination in this manner, which was often contested and took a long time to resolve, share parental rights in her child with her assailant, or if she desired that the child be adopted, have the assailant consent to adoption. Each of these options put the burden of affirmative steps related to the child on the rape victim.
“The new law still puts the affirmative burden on the victim; however, it provides her with a streamlined route for termination provided she can present evidence of rape,” said Oleg Fastovsky, child custody and sexual assault attorney with the Maryland Criminal Defense Group. “It certainly creates a situation where the assault itself may have to be litigated before a decision can be made and may still require the involvement of the accused assailant if the assailant disputes the non-consensual nature of the event.”
Many questions arose between legislators as the law was debated, including whether applying for a TPR under this law would preclude the mother from seeking child support from the assailant. One question a reader may have: if an assailant is found to have committed rape under this law, what bearing would that finding have on any subsequent criminal trial?
The answer is “none”. Though prior criminal convictions may be admissible in a criminal trial, a prior civil court’s finding that an individual committed the act of rape would be inadmissible as evidence of guilt in the criminal matter, because of the lower burden of proof. Therefore, a termination of parental rights under this law would not render an individual automatically criminally guilty. Nor, however, would the civil court’s finding that rape occurred prevent criminal charges from being filed under theory of “double jeopardy”.
Other matters are sure to arise following the law’s passage, but the hope is that this law will allow rape victims to rightfully terminate the parental rights of their assailant.
About the sponsor: Attorney Oleg Fastovsky is a seasoned criminal defense lawyer who is licensed in the state of Maryland. Attorney Fastovsky has used his experience to craft winning defensive strategies for his clients. This sponsored content is provided by Oleg Fastovsky Attorney at Law, with a focus on local and national issues.