A judge recently vacated an order that gave custody and parental rights to a man convicted of raping a 12-year-old girl. The judge who signed the order claims he was not aware at the time he signed the consent agreement that the child was conceived through rape. Once he had such knowledge, he vacated the order. A local prosecutor released a statement in which he apologized for the way the case was handled.
Approximately 100 people gathered at the courthouse for a victim's rights rally to protest the decision. The rape victim said that she was kidnapped and raped by the father of her child and was told she would be killed if she told anybody about what happened. The father denies raping or threatening the victim and maintains that they had a consensual sexual relationship.
However, he pled guilty to attempted third-degree criminal sexual conduct for the assault of the child's mother and pled no contest to third and fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct in another case involving a 15-year-old girl. These two victims spoke out at the rally. One of the rally's organizers says that the original consent agreement should never have happened and notes that never before has a twice-convicted sex offender been granted custodial and parental rights.
North Dakota judges assume that a relationship with both parents is in the child's best interests, but they will consider several factors when determining child custody. Some of these factors include the moral fitness of the parents, the nature of the relationship between the child and the parents, any evidence of domestic violence, child abuse, negligence or substance abuse and the parents' willingness to foster and maintain a healthy relationship between the child and the other parent.
Source: USA Today, Judge rescinds order granting rapist custody of child, Bob Gross and Liz Shepard, October 17, 2017