LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Men who father a child during a sexual assault would lose all parental rights but could still be ordered to pay child support under a bill introduced Monday by a Nebraska lawmaker.
State Sen. Bill Avery of Lincoln proposed legislation that would allow the man to keep his parental rights only if the mother gives her consent and a judge deems it is in the child's best interest.
The bill would strip parental rights from the biological father once he is convicted of first-degree sexual assault. It would require county attorneys to file a petition to terminate the rights after a conviction, which itself would suffice as evidence that a father's rights should be terminated.
Judges would also have the option to order that the father pay child support, unless they determined that doing so ran contrary to the child's interests. The measure would require judges to put the father's request for custody rights on hold during criminal proceedings, and would allow the paternity action to proceed if the father was found not guilty.
Avery introduced the measure after learning about the case of an Illinois woman who was raped in 2004, during her senior year of college. The man accused of sexually assaulting her later unsuccessfully tried to gain custody of the child. The man was never convicted, but served his accuser with custody papers while she pursued charges against him.
Avery said he's unaware of any such cases in Nebraska, but is introducing the bill as a pre-emptive measure.
"This was so egregious, and such an insult to the mother and child, that it seemed this kind of pre-emptive legislation wouldn't be a bad idea," Avery said Monday.
Avery said 31 other states don't have laws preventing a rapist from seeking custody of a child who was conceived during the sexual assault.
The bill will move to the Legislature's Judiciary Committee for review.
Lawmakers have introduced 193 bills as of Monday, the third day in which they're allowed to present new measures.
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