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Terminating the parental rights of a sexually abusive parent, P.2

In our previous post, we began looking at the issue is terminating the parental rights of those accused of sexual assault. As we noted last time, there a various grounds for terminating parental rights under Florida law. Another important ground for terminating parental rights is important to mention in this regard.

Florida law specifies that parental rights may also be terminated if it can be proven that the child was conceived as a result of sexual assault. The standard of proof in such cases is “clear and convincing evidence,” which is a lesser standard of proof than that required in criminal cases. In other words, a parent who has been sexually assaulted is able to terminate the parental rights of the attacker even when there isn’t enough evidence to convict that individual of sexual assault. 

Because of the lesser standard of proof in parental termination cases involving allegations of sexual assault, Florida courts are required to accept a guilty plea or conviction of sexual assault as “conclusive proof that the child was conceived by a violation of criminal law.” In cases where no guilty plea or conviction is available, it is necessary to build the strongest possible case to achieve a favorable judgment.

As good and useful as this law is for parents who have been sexually assaulted and who seek to terminate their accuser’s claim to custody rights, it can also result in parents being unfairly deprived of their parental rights. Parents who face false allegations of rape should, of course, work with an experienced attorney to defend their rights in court.

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