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 If reproductive coercion is a concern in your relationship, it’s important to understand your rights, especially if reproductive coercion has resulted in the birth of a child

What Is Reproductive Coercion?

Reproductive coercion occurs when a person deliberately sabotages contraceptive methods in order to become pregnant, or get their partner pregnant. The aforementioned may include lying about using contraception to begin with. Though some people feel as though reproductive coercion is a form of rape or sexual assault, the term is relatively new and the information surrounding it tends to be vague. It should be noted, however, that reproductive coercion is legally considered to be distinct from rape. Yet reproductive coercion is still unacceptable. If your partner has tampered with your birth control methods, lied about contraception, your partner has crossed the line. Such behaviors are never acceptable, and should not be tolerated. If your significant other has engaged in such behaviors, it may be time to re-evaluate the relationship. Many people wonder if it’s possible to face criminal charges for reproductive coercion, and what would happen to any children resulting from reproductive coercion.

Is It Illegal?

Currently, there aren’t any laws regarding the legality of reproductive coercion. Though California has made certain forms of reproductive coercion a civil offense, there are no states that have criminalized any form of reproductive coercion. So, at the time of writing this blog, there are no criminal punishments for reproductive coercion. Currently, you cannot be charged or arrested for reproductive coercion. However, in California, it is now possible to sue for reproductive coercion. But even then it may be difficult to prove that birth control methods were indeed tampered with as opposed to failing. The victim must also prove damages of their partner’s act of reproductive coercion.

What Will Happen to the Child?

As with other pregnancies, the woman will have the right to determine whether or not to continue with the pregnancy. And this is true regardless of how the child was conceived. 

Though biological fathers typically have some say in cases of adoption, the biological father cannot legally prevent the woman from raising the child herself, assuming the mother is fit to be a parent. However, if the biological father is unknown, or not made aware of the child’s birth, and it is possible that the father has not been made aware of the child’s existence, and thus he may be unable to prevent any adoption proceedings. If the woman follows through with the birth of the child the father will have rights to seek some form of legal and physical custody (parent-time) of the child and have the responsibilities that come with being a father such as paying child support in most cases.

What about Child Support?

Generally speaking, biological parents have an obligation to financially support their children, assuming they didn’t put their children up for adoption and forgo their parental rights.

Courts are concerned with the best interests of the child, not necessarily how the child came to be. Therefore, even if reproductive methods were tampered with, or one party lied about contraception, both parties may be responsible for financially supporting the child, assuming the child isn’t given up for adoption, or the pregnancy isn’t terminated. Child support is primarily based upon the parents’ incomes and how much custody or parent time each parent has. Each state has its own formula in determining child support. In some states, barring a substantial change in circumstances, child support cannot be lowered or negotiated. Because child support belongs to the child, the court generally will not allow parents to waive child support.

Who Will Have Custody?

When courts are determining who will have custody of the child, they’re looking at what is in the child’s best interests, even in cases where reproductive coercion led to the child’s existence.

For the most part, it is very difficult to completely prevent a parent from being involved in their child’s life, especially if the parent is fit to be a parent, and has a desire to be in the child’s life. So, assuming both parents are fit to be parents, and want to be involved in the child’s life, they’d likely both have some custody. It would be very difficult to completely prevent one party from having any custody or parent time. Though you’d still be financially responsible for the child, you could opt not to be involved in the child’s life.

Red Flags to Look For

Though there aren’t currently any laws against reproductive coercion, it’s never acceptable. Many times this is done to control a person, or make them reluctant to leave. If your significant other pressures you to start a family, tampers with your birth control, or has withheld finances so that you can purchase contraceptives, it may be time to re-evaluate the relationship. If you are unwilling to leave the relationship, or you are unable to leave the relationship, it may be a good idea to begin planning a safe exit. Domestic violence centers often have resources for men and women who have been victims of domestic violence. Some of these centers may provide you with assistance in leaving your current situation. If you’re concerned about the possibility of reproductive coercion, the best way to avoid this is to take control of your reproductive health and birth control.

When You’re Ready for Divorce

If you’re considering divorce, CoilLaw is here for you. Our attorneys have experience in high-conflict divorces, custody disputes, and alimony orders. If you’re ready to get the legal representation you deserve, contact CoilLaw today.


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