Denying Parental Rights for Sexual Abusers
Sexual assault is one of the most heinous crimes that can be committed on another person. Our laws harshly punish sexual offenders and the #metoo movement has weaponized public sentiment against those merely accused of sexual assault crimes. While criminal law may be clear on the matter, other parts of the law allows for odd outcomes. Until recently in Washington state a same sex parent may not have been able to assert parentage but if a person raped a woman and a pregnancy resulted from that assault, the offender could actually petition for parenting rights.
The Uniform Parentage Act
As of this year, Washington’s Uniform Parentage Act has been amended by adding Section 465 to preclude the establishment of parentage by perpetrators of sexual assault under certain conditions. First of all, the UPA now defines “sexual assault” as nonconsensual sexual penetration that results in pregnancy.
One thing to note is that this definition does not require any type of conviction for a criminal sex crime. In fact, the definition is quite broad and could include significant others if there is a claim that that a husband or boyfriend made a woman pregnant through nonconsensual intercourse.
A significant other or former love interest that is attempting to establish parental rights is a very different scenario than a stranger that committed a rape.
Just a mere claim that there was a sexual assault is not enough to deny parentage to a person. First of all, the mother making the allegation must file a pleading with the court that alleges the sexual assault within four years after the birth of the child. The four year time bar can only waived by the court if there was a finding in civil or criminal court that the accused sexually assaulted the parent alleging that the child was born as a result of the sexual assault.
After a pleading alleging sexual assault has been made, the court will conduct a fact finding hearing to decide whether the allegations are valid. This fact finding can include a genetic test to see if the alleged perpetrator is even biologically related. If not then the hearing must be dismissed.
It is on the accuser to submit affidavits in support of their pleading within 14 days of the fact finding hearing. The affidavits need to prove either that:
§ The person was convicted or plead guilty to sexual assault against the parent and the child was born within 320 days after that assault; or
§ There is clear, cogent and convincing evidence that the person committed sexual assault and that the child was born 320 days after that assault;
If the court does find that a sexual assault occurred and that the child was born out of that assault, the court can declare that the person is not a parent of the child, has no visitation rights, has no decision making rights, no inheritance rights, and no right to contest adoption of the child. At the same time the court can still order child support payments.