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Incarcerated dad loses parental rights

Parental rights are often hotly contested during child custody proceedings, with fathers sometimes losing out even if they can prove paternity. What happens in Minnesota and other American courts, however, when the father seeking rights to his children has been convicted of a serious crime? Further, what happens when the child that father is attempting to visit was born into a criminal situation? One New York court is attempting to sort out the parental rights of a federal prison worker and the man who impregnated her.

Authorities report the woman chose to bear the man's child in order to provide the former gang member with a beacon of hope. That 29-year-old woman changed her mind after actually giving birth to the child, however, and petitioned the court for the man to be excluded from his child's life. It seems as though the woman will have her wish granted; a court has declared the man "civilly dead" and removed any paternal rights he may have had. In addition, the man had no standing to bring a paternity petition because he forfeited his civil rights while in federal custody, according to the official ruling.

The woman is facing an upcoming criminal proceeding for her decision to have sexual relations with an inmate. She admits to feeling vulnerable at the time of the sexual relationship, thinking that she could provide the man with emotional support by giving him a child. The judge in the case ruled that paternity could not have been established upon conception, largely because the man did not have any legal standing.

News reports show that the 31-year-old man is currently imprisoned on federal death row in Indiana. He had been sentenced to death for murdering two detectives in 2003 during an undercover bust that went awry. He is currently appealing his latest sentence, which was revamped in 2010.

Attorneys in the case say a more humane decision would have been to grant the man paternity but to refuse any kind of visitation. Now, the child will not be able to benefit from a lawsuit in the event that the man dies in prison, for example. This is clearly a complicated case without a simple solution. It is not clear whether the man has the ability to appeal the decision.

Source:, "Photos: Judge denies paternity suit of Staten Island cop-killer Ronell Wilson" Frank Donnelly, Oct. 04, 2013

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