A Massachusetts court will soon hear a family law case that has the nation watching. An admitted rapist is trying to gain legal visitation rights to the child he fathered through the statutory rape of a teenage girl.

The man was 20 years old when the offense took place, and the girl was in the eighth grade. The statutory rape led to the 14-year-old’s pregnancy, and she decided at the time to have the child. The young mother is now raising the child with the help of her family, who have decided to fight back as the victim’s rapist attempts to gain visitation rights, a coincidental move as his child support bill catches up with him.

The man was charged with statutory rape in 2009, and he pleaded guilty last year to all four counts. The Superior Court judge sentenced the man to 16 years of probation under the odd condition that he acknowledge his role as the child’s father and pay child support.

Under Massachusetts law, the Superior Court ruling made it possible for the man to seek visitation rights, since the decision established a legal father-child relationship in the eyes of the courts. The mother’s attorney (not affiliated with this firm) has asked the court to change the man’s sentencing conditions, instead having him pay restitution rather than be involved with the life of the mother and the child through a continued child support order.

Sixteen other states have put statutes in place to protect the victims of rape and the children who are born as a result of rape. Of the 16, nine either require or allow the termination of the parental rights of the rapist, while seven states require or allow the stripping of visitation rights. Massachusetts is one of 34 states that have never addressed this particular kind of case. Worcester residents may want to keep an eye on it as it moves forward.

Source: My Fox Boston, “Rapist wants visitation rights; teen mom fighting back,” Sept. 26, 2012