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Massachusetts Rapist Receives Paternity Rights

This is an unbelievably tragic story. In 2009, a 20-year-old man named Jamie Melendez raped a 14-year-old girl (identified as H.T.) in the state of Massachusetts. Unfortunately, she became pregnant.rapists-custody-rights-thumb-275x181-71826.jpg

The rapist pleaded guilty to rape and was sentenced in 2011 to 16 years of probation.
Paternity was established in this case and as part of probation, the court acknowledged Melendez as the father of the child and ordered him to comply with the family court's orders until the child reaches maturity, age 18.

The family court ordered Melendez to pay $110 a week in child support. As a result of being ordered to pay child support, Melendez sought visitation rights. A family court judge granted his request even though Melendez had never expressed any interest in the child before that date.

Outraged, the young mother sued Massachusetts in 2012 in an effort to stop the court from forcing her into a lengthy relationship with the man who violated her. She asked the court to order Melendez to pay criminal restitution instead of child support but the court denied her request.

Presently, H.T. is seeking an injunction - a court order that would prohibit Melendez from having a relationship with the child - and annulment of the order. The case is pending.

What Happens Elsewhere to Children Born to Rape Victims?

When a rape results in a pregnancy, 31 states allow paternal rapists to sue for custody and visitation rights. Nineteen states bar rapists from seeking custodial and visitation rights, including California, Oregon and Alaska on the West Coast.

Sadly, in the states that don't afford parental rights to rapists, victims must work with the District Attorney's office to pursue criminal proceedings. If the court doesn't convict the defendants, there's little that victims can do to keep their assailants out of their children's lives.

In two states, rape victims are protected from enduring relationships with their attackers but only if they are a minor or if they are a stepchild or adopted child of the rapist.
Some people believe that women who conceive a child after being raped would never want to raise that child. But that isn't true. It's estimated that 30% of women who conceive by rape do raise their children.

A Georgetown Law Journal reported that 25,000 to 32,000 rape-related pregnancies occur in the U.S. annually. Fifty percent of these women select abortion while 5.9% place the children up for adoption.

Do you have questions about your divorce, family law, children's issues, same-sex unions, juvenile dependency, adoption, or spousal support? If so, call me or schedule a consultation with the Law Offices of James V. Sansone at 707-623-1875 or contact me by email. You can find additional information onfamily law, children's issues, spousal support, domestic violence as well as a list of resources you'll find helpful on our website.

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