Children Conceived Without Consent Under Maryland Law
Under Maryland law, parents are the natural guardians of their children, which includes child custody rights as well as duties of care and support. Even if the parents are separated, many parents end up splitting custody and support, dividing the burden of caring for their children.
When a child is conceived as a result of domestic violence or a sex crime, however, it is a different story. In these situations, the Maryland courts may terminate parental rights of the perpetrator and assign complete custody of the child to the victim. In order to do so, a state court must verify the presence of nonconsensual sexual conduct.
Nonconsensual Sexual Conduct
Under Maryland Code of Family Law Section 5-1401, the term nonconsensual sexual conduct refers to three specific crimes. These crimes are:
- Rape in the First Degree (Maryland Code of Criminal Law Section 3-303);
- Rape in the Second Degree (Maryland Code of Criminal Law Section 3-304); and
- Incest (Maryland Code of Criminal Law Section 3-323), if the victim is a minor and the perpetrator is at least four years older than the victim.
Termination of Parental Rights
Under Maryland Code of Family Law Section 5-1402, the state courts may terminate parental rights in certain situations involving nonconsensual sexual conduct. In order to exercise this extraordinary power, the following conditions apply:
- The perpetrator was convicted of an act of nonconsensual sexual conduct against the victim that resulted in the conception of a child; or
- The state court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the perpetrator committed such an act of nonconsensual sexual conduct; and
- There is clear and convincing evidence that it would be in the child’s best interests to terminate the perpetrator’s parental rights.
Generally speaking, the Maryland courts are prohibited from terminating parental rights of married spouses if the child was conceived as a result of nonconsensual sex. But in certain cases, it is possible to terminate parental rights, even if the perpetrator and victim are married to each other.
- One spouse was convicted of committing an act of nonconsensual sexual conduct against the other spouse that resulted in the conception of a child; or
- The spouses were separated under a protective order when the child was conceived and have remained apart since.
Effect of Parental Termination
Section 5-1402 also explains the practical impact of terminating parental rights for nonconsensual sexual conduct. When a Maryland state court terminates parental rights in these situations, it results in total elimination of the:
- Right to child custody, guardianship, access, visitation, or inheritance; and
- Responsibility to care for the child or pay child support.
Let Us Help You Today
If you need legal help with termination of parental rights or other facets of Maryland law, it can be decidedly constructive to consult with an established family law attorney. The Bel Air child custody attorneys at Schlaich & Thompson, Chartered have more than 60 years of combined legal experience in family and criminal law, including termination of parental rights. If you need legal help, contact us today for an initial consultation.