Cumberland Times-News

Editorials

March 4, 2013

‘Good cause’

Conviction as sex offender should limit custody rights

Many Marylanders likely do not know it, but a conviction for a sex crime is not a basis to deny custody or visitation rights to a parent.

That would change under a bill filed in Annapolis by several lawmakers who want stricter limits on custody and visitation rights.

The Senate Judicial Proceedings committee heard testimony last week on a bill filed by Sen. Richard Colburn, a Caroline County Republican, to prevent courts from awarding custody and visitation to a parent guilty of sexual abuse by a minor, unless there is a “good cause” to award custody.

According to Capital News Service, the committee was told of two cases where a parent convicted of sexually abusing a minor either won custody of their child, or could get it. In one case, a man found guilty of sexual abuse of a minor subsequently abused his own son.

Del. Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, R-Talbolt, has cross-filed the legislation in the House of Delegates, “We need to make a higher standard for child custody,” Haddaway-Riccio said.

The Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault supported Colburn and Haddaway-Riccio’s bills in written testimony, but requested an amendment that would clearly define “good cause.”

On the other side, the Office of the Public Defender opposed the legislation, saying existing laws already protect children from abuse and neglect. “We believe the current law not only protects children from a broader range of harm (than the bill), but does so pursuant to laws and proceedings that embody appropriate standards and steps,” read the office’s written testimony.

Under current law, the guiding principal in custody decisions is the best interest of the child, Capital News Service reported. In making that determination, courts are required to consider evidence of abuse between parents or spouses, abuse of any other child living in the household. In the event of past abuse, the court must determine that there is no likelihood of a recurrence.

The U.S. Supreme Court and the Maryland Court of Appeals have recognized parents have a fundamental right to govern the care, custody and control of their children, unless the parent is found unfit, or under exceptional circumstances.

It seems to us that being convicted as a sex offender meets the court’s finding that custody be granted “unless the parent is found unfit.”

The General Assembly should ramp up protection of children who are at the center of custody cases involving a parent who is a sex offender.

 

1
Text Only
Editorials
  • Street flowers Street flowers

    Walk along Frostburg’s Main Street in the spring and summer and one can’t miss the beautiful floral arrangements that adorn the lampposts.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • First base First base

    The idea of spending up to $7,500 for a study about the possibility of bringing a minor league baseball team to the area should at least be allowed to reach first base.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Restore them Restore them

    There are an estimated 47,000 deceased veterans whose remains are unidentified and unclaimed throughout the U.S. A group of senators and congressmen hope to do something to
    bring these men and women some dignity after death.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Support the March for Babies May 3 at Canal Place

    At the March of Dimes, we promise to work tirelessly toward the day when all babies are born healthy.
    The March of Dimes has worked for more than 75 years to help babies get a healthy start in life.

    April 20, 2014

  • Happy Easter

    For the world’s more than 2 billion Christians, Easter is the day that defines their faith.
    The exact date of Christ’s resurrection is unknown, and even the precise locations of his crucifixion and burial are uncertain. This hasn’t stopped some people from saying they know the answer to these questions and others from trying to find out for themselves, or simply arguing about it.
     

    April 20, 2014

  • We concur We concur

    We’re certain that Donald Rumsfeld, who served as Secretary of Defense under Presidents Gerald Ford and George W. Bush, echoes what many Americans feel about the complexity of filing income tax returns.
    When he filed his return, Rumsfeld sent the following letter to the Internal Revenue Service:

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • The first step The first step

    If all goes as planned, Frostburg State University will one day offer a doctorate in nursing, a physician’s assistant program and a new health sciences building on campus.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Where to look Where to look

    Drive anywhere in Maryland and it seems there is one highway construction project after another. While it is good to see our roads and bridges being upgraded, it can be nerve-wracking for anyone traveling a long distance.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Library week

    Public libraries remain one of the best uses of taxpayer dollars. They are open to all. Young or old, poor or wealthy, residents can use computers and read current magazines and newspapers. Compact discs featuring a wide variety of music and
    movies on DVD may be checked out in addition to novels and other books.

    April 13, 2014

  • Sunday hunting Sunday hunting

    Legislation that increases hunting oppportunities on Sundays in Garrett, Allegany and Washington counties has passed the Maryland General Assembly and reached the governor’s desk.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo