No 7. Ban of Custody Rights for Rapists
Parent-Time Restrictions Amendments (HB 152). This law restricts someone who is convicted of a sexual offense that results in the conception of a child from having parent-time or custody of the child but requires support of the child to continue. The law provides for a few exceptions, including which sexual offenses are included and if the mother consents or the parties later live together.
My take: As a general rule, any time the legislature attempts to ban a parent’s right to parent time with a child without evaluating the best interest of the child, I think the law potentially runs into problems with Constitution. I can understand a gut reaction that someone who has been convicted of a sexual offense should not be able to have visitation with the child that is the product of that offense. Apparently, 16 other states have passed similar laws. However, Utah laws define sexual offenses broadly, and as such, it is plausible that a man could be convicted of sexual offense in circumstances, and even have a relationship with the victim, and yet choose not to live with her and be banned from parent time pursuant to this law. The judge should have the discretion to decides what is in the child’s best interest and to hear the father’s argument. Remember, the mother always has the option to terminate parental rights and under the circumstances where she was raped by the father, she would likely have a strong argument. However, this law is for mother’s who opt to continue to collect child support from the biological father but want to cut off contact between the child and the biological father. In my view, the judge should absolutely take into consideration the conviction of the sexual offense when deciding whether parent time should be granted. I also think that a presumption against parent-time would be appropriate (thereby making it difficult for the father to overcome the legal presumption). That would be a better solution. In my view, a total ban goes too far.