If my child was conceived from a sexual assault, can the offender's rights be terminated?
The mother of the child, or her parent/guardian if the mother is a minor, can file a petition in district court to terminate the offender’s parental rights and responsibilities if the child was conceived due to an act of gross sexual assault, sexual abuse of minors, or incest in Maine or a similar crime in another state. Whether the judge must terminate the rights or whether the judge has the option (discretion) to do so depends on whether there was a criminal conviction for the sexual assault or not.
If the offender was criminally convicted of any of those crimes, the judge must terminate the parent’s parental rights and responsibilities when requested.1 The only exception to this is when a parent/guardian is filing the petition on behalf of a minor victim of statutory rape (gross sexual assault section (1)(B)). In this case, the judge can deny the petition and not terminate the offender’s parental rights if:
- the victim is at least 12 years old;
- the victim says that the sexual act was “consensual;” and
- the victim doesn’t want the offender’s rights to be terminated.2
If the offender was not criminally convicted of any of the above-mentioned crimes, the judge can terminate the offender’s parental rights and responsibilities if you prove with clear and convincing evidence that the offender committed an act of sexual violence that resulted in the child being conceived.3 If the judge does not terminate the offender’s rights, the judge must take into consideration the following factors when deciding whether to order parent-child contact:
- whether the sexual assault indicates that there may be safety concerns for the child;
- whether it would be in the best interest of the child for the parent who committed sexual assault to receive any specific counseling or treatment; and
- any effect contact between the parents would have on the parent who was a victim of sexual assault.4
The judge will include conditions in the order that are appropriate to meet the child’s best interest while minimizing the effect on the parent who experienced the sexual assault, such as limiting the contact between the victim and the offender, and limiting or putting specific conditions on parent-child contact, including supervision.4
1 M.R.S. 19-A § 1658(1), (2)(A), (3-A)(A)
2 M.R.S. 19-A § 1658(1), (2)(A), (3-A)(B)(1)
3 M.R.S. 19-A § 1658(3-A)(A), (4)
4 M.R.S. 19-A § 1653(6-D)