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CHILD CUSTODY/ VISITATION LAWS APPLICABLE TO REGISTERED PERSONS
Derek W. Logue of OnceFallen.com
Created 1 December 2019, Updated 25 July 2021
NOTE: if you are aware of any laws I missed here, please email any missed statutes to firstname.lastname@example.org
In my 2016 Jobs and Welfare Survey of 307 Registered Persons, I found that registrants in this survey were less likely to be married than the general population (34.43% of RPs vs 49% of GP) and less likely to have kids (54.93 RPs. vs 74% GP). However, this still means many people forced to register on America’s sex offense registries have families. This makes parental rights an important topic for, registered citizens many of whom are afraid that registry status can be used against them.
PURPOSE OF REPORT: This list covers state statutes pertaining to parental rights or the right to reside with minors for registered persons. Parental rights generally mean custody and/or visitation rights. This report also covers state statutes covering the right of registered persons to live in households with minors or have unsupervised visits with children.
LIMITATIONS: This report does not fully discuss the laws pertaining to custody rights involving a child where that child was abused by the registrant, nor does this report take into account the prohibition on living with children rules of probation/ parole/ supervised release, noting also not all rules for supervision are written in state statutes.
NOTE ON ADOPTION & FOSTER CARE: While not all statutes specifically cover foster care or adoption, agencies will routinely deny Registrants (and oftentimes their family members) from adopting of fostering a minor.
The daughter of a Registered Person was unable to have children of her own, so the daughter and her husband looked into both adoption and foster care as possible alternatives. One of the questions on the application asked, “Is anyone in your extended family a sex offender’?” She answered truthly, “Yes, my dad is.” So they immediately denied her. She appealed.
The foster care agency told her the only condition in which they would consider allowing her to adopt was if she agreed to call the police any time that the Registrant was “within sight” of the child. She had to sign a form, which held her legally liable if she did not call the police if the child ever saw the Registrant, or if the Registrant ever saw the child.
They specifically gave this example: If she is in Walmart with the foster child, and happens to see her father shopping in that same Walmart, she is required to call the police and have the father removed from Walmart. She is not allowed to approach the father and ask him to leave, because that would endanger the child.
ABBREVIATIONS: For the sake of simplicity, the abbreviation “SOR” (Sex Offense Registry) is used when referring to any state registry, whether private or public. Also, RP (“Registered Person”) is used as an abbreviation for any person forced to register on the SOR.
According to a 2019 report by the National Conference of State Legislatures:
Termination of Parental Rights: 30 states allow for the termination of parental rights of perpetrators of sexual assault who conceive a child as a result.
Restriction of Parental Rights: 20 states allow for some form of restriction on the parental rights of perpetrators of sexual assault. (Source: Meghan McCann. “Parental Rights and Sexual Assault.” National Conference of State Legislatures. 21 June 2019. Accessed 24 November 2019 at http://www.ncsl.org/research/human-services/parental-rights-and-sexual-assault.aspx)
The intent of this report is to provide a basic overview of the current state statutes covering registered persons who are either dating someone with children or are fighting for parental custody of their children.
COMMON THEMES IN CHILD CUSTODY LAWS
Virtually all states prevent the registered person parental rights if the child was conceived through an act of rape while still being obligated to pay child support or offer inheritance; this includes consensual sex if the person is at or below a certain age. While few states explicitly ban even some subgroups of Registered Persons (RPs) from having parental rights or living in any household with minors, some states can use the registrant’s status as evidence against the parent in a custody dispute. Some states consider the status of being listed on the SOR to be an automatic danger to children, making dating a registrant risky in those states even if you don’t allow the registrant to spend time with your children unsupervised. In states where the assumption of risk is automatically made, there is usually an opportunity to prove the registrant is not dangerous, though the burden of proof typically falls on the registrant to disprove the notion of dangerousness. However, virtually all states have a general provision that allows the courts discretion in accepting any argument that assumes risk, meaning that just because there is no explicit statement that registered persons are assumed to be a risk in the states does not mean that registry status will not be used in child custody cases.
STATE LAWS SUMMARY
ALABAMA (Ala. Code, Secs. 12-15-312, 12-16-319, 15-20A-11): AL’s laws are complex and rather confusing, with diminished rights for people convicted of specific charges. AL passed HB 48 (2019), known as “Jessi’s Law,” (Amended by Act 2019-512,§ 2, eff. 9/1/2019) which amended Ala. Code § 12-15-312, 12-15-319 to bar anyone convicted of 1st Degree rape, 1st Degree Sodomy, or Incest from obtaining parental custody of their children, regardless of whether the crime involved their children. In addition, any felony can be considered as grounds for termination of parental rights. AL also prohibits RPs who are adults from living with anyone under age 18 or allowing minors to have overnight visits unless that registrant is the parent, grandparent, stepparent, sibling, or stepsibling of the minor. However, this exception does not apply if the case involved anyone under age 12, if it involved anyone under age 18 if the minor victim lived in the residence with the offender, if the minor was a relative, if there was force involved, or if there is an attempted or completed termination of parental rights in the courts.
ALASKA (A.S., Secs. 25.23.180; 47.10.086): AK only terminates parental rights of an RP when the child is conceived through rape. However, the state is not required to make reasonable efforts to reunite the child with a family member who abused the child or is listed on the SOR.
ARIZONA (Ariz. Rev. Stat. 25-403.5; 25-416): RPs must prove they are not a danger to the child before they can be awarded parental rights; if you are a parent dating a registrant or allowing an RP to live with you or visit, you must let the other parent know about the RP’s status; a registrant has no parental rights if the child is conceived through rape.
ARKANSAS (AR Code, Secs. 9-13-101; 9-10-121; 9-13-105): RPs are resumed dangerous to children; the burden of proof falls on the RP to prove he is not a danger to children before custody can be granted or be allowed to live in a household with children present. Children born through rape are entitled to inheritance money and child support while the RP has no legal visitation/ custodial rights.
CALIFORNIA (Cal. Fam. Code, Secs. 3030; 3030.5; Cal. Welf. and Inst. Code, Section 355.1): RPs with offenses involving minors cannot be awarded parental rights; court can override this rule but must prove a written statement listing the reasons for the exception. It is assumed allowing an RP with a minor victim around your children is “prima facie evidence” the child is at risk of abuse or neglect. Parents of children conceived by rape have no parental rights but can be compelled to pay child support.
COLORADO (See Colo. Rev. Stat. 14-10-129; 19-5-105.5; 19-5-105.7) : A sex offense conviction can be used as the basis for terminating parental rights, and the RP has the burden of proof for showing the RP is not a danger to the child. The court can order an RP to take a psychological evaluation at the RP’s expense. The parent of a child conceived through rape can petition the court to terminate the rights of the offender, but termination of rights does not terminate child support obligations.
CONNECTICUT (Conn. Gen. Stat. 17a-111b): The court can move to terminate the rights of a RP if the child was conceived by rape.
DELAWARE (Del. Code Tit. 13, Secs. 722A, 724A, 725A, 726A, 728, 728A): All RPs are assumed dangerous and cannot have custody, unsupervised visits, or reside with a child. This restriction can be waived by the court if there are no subsequent convictions for sex/ violent crimes, completed a treatment program, and determined to be in the child’s best interests. This exception does not apply if there is a court order prohibiting these exemptions, the minor is the victim, or was a child conceived by rape.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA (DC Code Sec. 16-914): RPs whose children were conceived by rape have no parental rights but can be compelled to pay child support.
FLORIDA (Fla. Stat. Secs. 39.806; FS §61.13(2)(c)(2)): Parental rights can be terminated under the following conditions: children conceived through rape, incarceration of certain sex crimes, sexual abuse of a child, or classification as a “sexual predator,” and there is no obligation of child welfare services to engage in any activity related to family reunification. As of 2021 (under CS/HB 141), there is a rebuttable presumption that living in a household with an RP with an offense against a minor is a detriment to the child’s safety.
GEORGIA (Ga. Code, Secs. 15-11-2, 19-7-2, 19-8-10): Considers child conceived by rape or when the mother is below age 10 as “aggravated circumstances” in determining termination of parental rights; children born of rape are entitled to inheritance.
HAWAII (Haw. Rev. Stat, Sec. 571-46; 571-61; 587A-4): RP has no parental right to child conceived by rape but can be ordered to pay child support; Registry status is considered an “aggravated circumstance” when deciding parental rights in court.
IDAHO (Idaho Code, Sec. 16-2005): It is assumed that terminating the parental rights of an RP when the child was conceived by rape or the RP committed an offense against the child is in the child’s best interests but can be challenged.
ILLINOIS (720 ILCS 5/12-21.6-5; 750 ILCS 46/622): RPs classified as a “Child SO” (i.e., an offense against anyone under age 18) cannot live in a household with minors unless the minor is a child or stepchild; parental rights are terminated if the child was conceived by rape but can be compelled to pay child support.
INDIANA (Ind. Code Sec. 31-35-3-4, 31-35-3.5-1 to 31-35-3.5-12): Parental rights can be terminated if the victim is a child of the RP or was conceived by rape.
IOWA (Iowa Code, Secs. 232.68; 232.116; 598.41; 600A.8; 726.6): Parental rights can be terminated if that parent is a RP with a minor victim, the parent was convicted of a sex crime requiring 5+ years in prison, if the RP is divorced from or never married to the other parent of the child, or if the child was conceived by rape. A parent’s registry status can be considered during child custody inquiries. Furthermore, it is considered child abuse and a parent can be arrested for child endangerment for allowing a RP unsupervised time with the child unless the parent is a RP or married to the RP. Exposing the child to obscene material is also considered child abuse.
KANSAS (KS Stat. Secs. 23-3203; 38-2269): A RP’s status can be considered in custody rights hearings, regardless of whether or not the offense involved the child in question, or any child. It is also assumed that an RC is unfit to care for a child if the child is a victim or conceived by rape by the RC, or the RC has been convicted of trafficking offenses.
KENTUCKY (Ky. Stat., Sec. 17.545; 403.322; 405.028): RPs are denied parental rights for children conceived through rape but may be compelled to pay child support. The mother has the right to waive denial of visitation and collection of child support. A registrant with an offense against a minor (for offense committed after 7/14/2018) cannot live with minors unless the minor is spouse, parent, grandparent, stepparent, sibling, stepsibling, or court-appointed guardian of the minor and WAS NOT the victim.
LOUISIANA (La. Civ. Code 137; La,. Child Code Secs. 1004; 1015; 1015.1): RPs have no custody rights when a child is conceived by rape or if the RP abused the child, but the child maintains inheritance rights; the RP may be compelled to
pay court costs and child/ victim support for these cases.
MAINE (Me. Stat. 19-A-1653; 19-A-1658; 22-4055): Courts can consider the registry status of the parent or anyone living in the household of the parent in parental rights cases; rights of RPs are denied when a child was conceived by rape unless the victim objects and can show the activity was consensual. It is presumed an RP is a danger to a child if that child is a prior victim of the RP.
MARYLAND (Md. Fam. Law Code 5-1402): No parental rights for RP if child was conceived by rape but may be compelled to pay child support.
MASSACHUSETTS (Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 209C, Sec. 3): RPs have no parental rights for a child conceived by rape, but visitation rights may be granted if the child is old enough and agrees to visitation.
MICHIGAN (Mich. Comp. Laws, Secs. 712A.13a’ 712A.18f; 712A.19a; 722.25; 722.1445): Courts are not required (but may) make reasonable efforts to reunite a child with a parent who is an RP, and can impose visitation restrictions. RPs have no parental rights if the child was conceived by rape.
MINNESOTA: (2019 Minn. Stat. 631.52; 260C.503) Parental rights can be terminated if RP committed an offense against any child in the household (even if that child was not the victim) or if RP is classified as a “predatory offender.” Suspension of parenting time rights and/or transfer of custody to the non-custodial parent shall be granted by family court if person is convicted of a variety of serious offenses including many sex offenses.
MISSISSIPPI (Miss. Code, Secs. 93-15-119; 97-5-42): RPs have no parental rights if the child was conceived by rape. If the child is a victim of the RP, the RP may win some parental rights back only after treatment for both RP and victim is completed, and the courts determine the RP poses no danger to the child.
MISSOURI (Mo. Rev. Stat, Sec. 211.038; 211.447): RPs have no parental rights if the child was conceived by rape or if the RP abused a child under the RP’s care. If the RP is a child and a sibling of the victim or a child living in the same household at the time of the offense, the prohibition on living in close proximity of the victim does not apply.
MONTANA (Mont. Code Ann. 2019, Secs. 40-6-1001; 41-3-609; 45-5-503): RPs have no parental rights if child was conceived by rape, but may be compelled to pay child support and offer inheritance. Under 45-5-513, a “high risk” offender cannot establish a residence or any other living accommodation in a place where a minor resides, except that the offender may reside with a minor if the offender is the parent, grandparent, or stepparent of the minor unless his parental rights are terminated or the registrant was convicted for abusing a child in the home.
NEBRASKA (Neb. Rev. Stat., Secs. 43-292; 43-292.02; 43-2933): RPs are assumed threats and custody can only be won if there is a determination that the registrant is not a danger to the child. In custody matters, allowing a RP unsupervised time with your children is considered “prima facie evidence” for determining risk. No parental rights are granted if the child was conceived by rape.
NEVADA (NRS 125C.210; 128.105; 432B.393): No parental rights if the child is conceived by rape. No reasonable reunification efforts by child services will be made to a RP.
NEW HAMPSHIRE (NH Rev. Stat. Ann., Sec. 170-C:5-a) No parental rights if the child was conceived by rape.
NEW JERSEY (NJS 9:2-4.1) RPs convicted of NJS 2C:14-2 (Sexual Assault), NJS 2C:14-3 (Criminal Sexual Contact) or 2C:14-4 (Lewdness) can only be awarded custody or visitation if proven by clear and convincing evidence it is in the child’s best interest to stay with the RP. (This also covers child conceived by rape). The courts can keep child’s location confidential and victim is not required to go to court in person.
NEW MEXICO (NM Stat., Sec. 32A-5-19) Consent for relinquishing parental rights is not required if the child was conceived by rape.
NEW YORK (N.Y. Dom. Rel. 240; NY Fam. Ct. Act 651): Registry records are used in family court to determine if it is appropriate to place a child in the home. It is assumed it is not in the best interests of the child to be placed in the home of an RP if the child was conceived by rape but can be challenged.
NORTH CAROLINA (NC Gen Stat., Secs. 7B-1111; 14-27.21; 14-27.22; 14-27.23; 50-13.1): The court may terminate parental rights if the child is conceived by rape.
NORTH DAKOTA (N.D. Cent. Code, Secs. 27-20-17; 27-20-44) Parental rights can be terminated if the child was conceived by rape or if probable cause exists that the RP committed an offense against the child and presents a danger to the child.
OHIO (ORC 3109.04; 3109.042; 3109.501 to 3109.507): No parental rights if the child was conceived by rape; Ohio notes that mothers can also be convicted of rape and extends this prohibition to females convicted of rape. Sex offense convictions are considered in child custody hearings if the child was the victim.
OKLAHOMA (Okla. Stat., Secs. 10A-1-4-705; 10A-1-4-904; 30-2-117; 43-112.2; 43-112.5; 43-150.8; 10-7505-6.3; 57- 584; 57-590): PRs have no parental rights if the child was conceived by rape or if the child is the victim; Households with an RP residing cannot foster or adopt; parental guardianship affidavits contain provisions barring leaving children alone with RPs; It is assumed allowing child to live in the household of an RP or convicted of failing to report abuse is not in the best interests of the child; children cannot be placed in households where RPs reside without a court order. RPs cannot live in households where minors are present unless the RP is the parent, grandparent, or stepparent of the minor, the minor must no be the victim, and RPs must report to the statewide centralized hotline of the Department of Human
Services the name and date of birth of any and all minor children residing in the same household and the offenses for which the person is required to register pursuant to the Sex Offenders Registration Act within three (3) days of intent to reside with a minor child.
OREGON (2017 ORS Secs. 107.137; 419B.510): No parental rights if child was conceived by rape but may be compelled to pay child support; past pattern of sexual abuse is considered during custody hearings.
PENNSYLVANIA (Pa. C.S.A.; 23-2511; 23-4321; 23-5329): Court considers many offenses during custody hearings; knowingly leaving a child unattended with a RP listed at Tier II or above meets the state definition of “child abuse”; No parental rights if child was conceived by rape but may be compelled to pay child support; parental rights of RPs could be terminated based on inclusion on registry, including for out-of-state offenses.
RHODE ISLAND (RI Gen. Laws 15-5-16): No parental rights if child was conceived by rape; if the child is the victim, visitation rights can be regained only if RP engages in counseling and the court determines visitation is in the best interest of the child.
SOUTH CAROLINA (SC Code, Secs. 63-7-1640; 63-7-2350; 63-7-2570): Parental rights can be terminated if the child was conceived by rape or any child in the household was abused by the RP; no adoption or foster considerations for households with RPs over age 18, except if the offense is pardoned and the court decides there is no danger to the child.
SOUTH DAKOTA (SDLRC Secs. 25-4A-20; 25-4A-24; 26-8A-21): Assumed parental rights for child conceived by rape is not in best interest of the child but allows for challenge; allowing a RP to spend unsupervised time with a child can affect custody rights; Courts are not compelled to reunify child with parent on the registry.
TENNESSEE (Tenn. Code Ann., 36-1-113; 36-6-102; 36-6-406; 40-39-211): No parental rights if child conceived by rape; RPs with minor victims cannot live with any child that is not their biological child, or any child if the victim was their own child, under age 12, or considered a violent offense; if a parent is trying to receive temporary or permanent custody of a child, an RP cannot be around the child or be in the household; any criminal conviction can be used to determine whether there is a risk to the child.
TEXAS (Tex. Fam. Code 161.001; 161.007): Parental rights may be terminated if the offense was an offense where injury was caused to the child, or if the child was conceived by rape. If the other parent marries or cohabits the RP whose child together was conceived by rape within 2 years after the birth of the child, the parental rights can be terminated.
UTAH (Utah Code, Secs.76-5-414; 78A-6-312): No parental rights if the child was conceived by rape without agreement by both the victim and court agree or both parents cohabitate and create a home together with the child; Child support can still be required; Reunification services are denied to RPs.
VERMONT (15 VSA 665): Courts can terminate parental rights if the child was conceived by rape or if the RP was convicted for sex trafficking with the non-RP parent as the victim, but child support can be compelled.
VIRGINIA (Va. Code 16.1-228; 20-124.1; 63.2-100): Leaving the child in the presence of a RP who is not the parent of the child is considered an act of child abuse/ neglect; it is not considered to be in the best interest of the child to give parental rights to RP if the child was conceived by rape.
WASHINGTON STATE (RCW, Secs. 9A.42.110; 9.94A.6551; 13.34.132; 26.10.160, set for repeal on 1/1/2021; 26.26.760): Washington’s laws are long, repetitive, and confusing. It is a misdemeanor to leave a child in the care of an RP convicted for an offense involving a child unless it is part of a court reunification plan; RPs are ineligible for house arrest under parenting programs; courts may terminate parental rights if the child was conceived by rape, the RP was convicted for sex trafficking, or was classified as a sexual predator; while all RPs are considered a danger to children, this assumption can be challenged, and parental rights may be awarded to an RP under limited circumstances if offense did not involve the child, treatment has been completed, a psychosexual evaluation has been completed, and courts rule the RP is not a danger to the child, but the implication is these rulings are difficult to obtain.
WEST VIRGINIA (W. Va Code, Secs. 48-9-209; 48-9-209a; 49-4-602): Parental rights can be terminated if a child was conceived by rape, but may be compelled to pay child support; court is not obligated to preserve the family if one parent is a RP.
WISCONSIN (Wis. Stat. 48-415): Parental rights can be terminated if child was received by rape.
WYOMING (Wyo. Stat. 14-2-309): Parental rights of RP can be terminated if child was conceived by rape unless the parent seeking termination was married to or cohabiting with the offender resulting in the birth of the child for 2+ years immediately after the birth of the child; courts are not required to make reasonable efforts to reunify child to a parent who is an RP.