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Criminal Background

Certain criminal charges are relevant in family law cases. Pennsylvania law requires parties to submit a criminal history verification in every custody proceedings. Under 23 Pa CS 5329, the court is to consider criminal convictions, not just official charges, when making a custody decision. Charges for the following crimes must be disclosed: homicide, aggravated assault, terroristic threats, stalking, kidnapping, unlawful restraint, false imprisonment, luring a child into a vehicle or structure, rape, sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, indecent assault, indecent exposure, sexual intercourse with animal, sex offenders, arson, incest, concealing the death of a child, endangering welfare of children, dealing in infant children, prostitution, obscene sexual material or performances, unlawful contact with minor, sexual exploitation of children, driving under the influence, and manufacture/sale/delivery of controlled substances.

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While the court must consider criminal convictions, it does not mean the party with a criminal background is automatically barred from spending time with their child. Instead, the court would just need to make sure appropriate safeguards are in place for the welfare of the minor children involved. A party who has a rape conviction is at risk of a permanent bar against custody. Pursuant to 23 Pa CS 2511(a) which lays out the grounds on which a parent's rights can be involuntarily terminated, paragraph (7) provides for termination where "the parent is the father of a child conceived as a result of rape or incest." A party petitioning for involuntary termination will still need someone willing to adopt the child simultaneously with the termination.

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