Rape Survivor Child Custody Act
The two bills that make up the Rape Survivor Child Custody Act were signed into law by Governor Snyder on May 3, 2016 and June 12, 2016! The new P.A. 96 of 2016 and P.A. 178 of 2016 were given immediate effect and will be implemented across the state. H.B. 4481 was approved on April 19, 2016 by 105-3 in the House on a concurring vote.
Several states have begun to recognize the reality that rape and pregnancy arising from assaults are a very real phenomenon. Most states have had little to no protection for rape survivors who maintain the pregnancy and choose to parent their child when the man steps forward to assert his parental rights. Aligning the legal standard for termination of custody, parenting time, and parental rights for those who sexually assault and those who abuse or neglect makes sense. The idea that a woman would have to co-parent with the man who raped her is unconscionable.
RLM’s testimony in support of the bill included the opportunity to show a video from RLM’s compassion project featuring the story of Shauna Prewitt (click to see Shauna’s story). No votes were taken and the bills are expected to be addressed again in the near future. The governor signed into law P.A. 178 of 2016 on 6-12-16 which completes the Rape Survivor Child Custody Act. Senate bill 858 was presented to the governor on 6-2-16. On 5-25-16, just one day after the House Criminal Justice committee approved the bill, the House adopted S.B. 858 with a bi-partisan vote of 100-9. On 5-24-16 S.B. 858 was unanimously voted out to the House Criminal Justice committee. The full Senate voted to approve the Rape Survivor Child Custody Act 37-0 on 5-18-16. The Senate Judiciary committee heard testimony on S.B. 858 on 5-12-16 from both Right to Life of Michigan and the Michigan Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Prevention & Treatment Board. The committee voted unanimously to approve S.B. 858.
A second bill was introduced to permanently terminate the parental rights of a rapist. The second bill is necessary because termination of parental rights is in a different section of law than the custody and parenting provisions. This second bill is also needed to meet a requirement of a federal bill passed by Congress in Washington that will make states eligible for certain grant monies if the state’s laws ensure parental rights can be terminated by clear and convincing evidence. S.B. 858 was introduced on March 17, 2016 and referred to the Senate Judiciary committee.