Sex Offenders’ Access to Visitation Debated

Maryland sex offenders may not be allowed within close proximity to a school or day care, but they are permitted to have a liberal visitation schedule under state law. Even when the other parent protests, many of these adults are allowed full access to their children, including overnight visits without supervision. Now, parents throughout the state are raising opposition against these accommodations, which they say are not in the best interests of the child.

One Maryland woman, whose child’s father is a registered-for-life sex offender, has been vocal about her opposition to state law, which permits the man overnight visits with his 4-year-old son. The man had been convicted of sexually abusing a young girl while the couple was still married. They divorced when he was released from prison in 2012. Even though neither person was represented by an attorney, they hammered out a custody agreement that gave the woman sole physical and legal custody. The woman said she did not fully understand the implications of the custody agreement at the time it was signed, and attempts to change the document have only made matters worse.

In fact, even though the woman argues that another sex offender lives in her ex-husband’s apartment complex, the court refuses to mandate supervision during the child’s visitation. She says she is not intent on removing the child from her ex-husband’s life; rather, she simply wants to assure his safety during the visits. Judges in the case acknowledge that the man is a sex offender, but they do not see any potential danger to the little boy during his stays at his father’s home.

Measures to limit visitation rights for sex offender parents have faced legal barriers in the past, and no provisions exist to limit these individuals’ parental rights.

This case can be taken as a cautionary tale; the woman in this case did not choose to employ the services of a qualified attorney. Lawyers can help their clients understand more about the rights that have been included in the custody agreements, heading off any potential problems before they become overwhelming.

Source: www.washingtonpost.com, “Maryland law on sex offenders and child custody must be revisited” No author given, Sep. 29, 2013