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Child of rape can be subject to shared child custody arrangement

When it comes to difficult subjects to talk about, none is much tougher than the topic of rape or pregnancy resulting from that rape. But the reality is that some children are born because of a traumatic event like rape. In the state of Tennessee, it is possible that some parents of an alleged rape may be subject to a version of a split custody arrangement when a child is involved. It is important to note that parental rights are revoked in a scenario of convicted rape, not alleged rape.

Many states, including Tennessee, require a conviction of rape to terminate parental rights. Because many rape victims choose not to go to trial, this can be problematic if the father, and alleged rapist, requests paternity rights. However, there are options available to mothers who have been petitioned for child custody by the father of their child, who is also their alleged rapist.

The basis for some of the decisions about this issue surround the 14th Amendment, which protects a person's right to parent their child. However, between 25,000 and 32,000 women give birth to children every year that are the product of rape. The constitutional amendment alone is not necessarily enough to grant custody to a father and alleged assaulter. Most mothers in this position would like to move on with their life after such a horrifying experience.

There is a lot of ambiguity in the law and in the varying opinions on this issue. Whatever side of the issue a person falls on, there are certainly legal arguments supporting both each. Constitutional rights are important, but they are not absolute. What is also important is the best interests of the child in such a unique family situation.

Source:, "Pregnant Through Rape, Women Are Forced To Share Child Custody With Their Attackers," Caitlin Nolan, March 13, 2016

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