Society

Sex Offender Wins Custody Of Stepdaughters

| by Nicholas Roberts
GavelGavel

Nebraska's Supreme Court has ruled that two teenage girls are to remain in the custody of a man who is a convicted sex offender.

On Aug. 19, the girls' father explained that he was searching for the address of his ex-wife in a different town several years ago, when he discovered she had been remarried to a sex offender, according to the Omaha World-Herald.

"It’s a scary situation for anyone," he said. "I can’t imagine any parent being comfortable with having their children in the same household with someone with that kind of background."

Since discovering the disturbing information, the father has attempted to fight for the custody of his daughters -- ages 17 and 15 -- several times.

A district court and appeals court both ruled against the father, the New York Daily News reports.  

As of Aug. 19, the Nebraska Supreme Court determined that the girls were not at significant risk from regular unsupervised contact with their stepfather, who has previously served prison time for felony sexual assault on a child.

According to the attorney who represented the father, this ruling now means the presence of a sexual offender in a home is not enough to warrant changes in children's living arrangements on its own. The burden of proof is now on the noncustodial parent to offer additional evidence of risk to the children.

"This is now the precedent," said attorney Brandon Binegar. "If the Legislature wants the law to do something other than what this interpretation says, they will have to do something to change the law."

The mother reportedly moved in with the sex offender in 2010 and married him in 2012, according to the Omaha World-Herald.

The stepfather is reportedly the second sex offender the mother has dated. After her original marriage with the girls' father ended, the mother lived with a man who was later charged and convicted with molesting her 5-year-old child, who is not a subject of the current custody dispute.

The woman's current husband says he has gone through and completed three stages of sex offender treatment as well as inpatient treatment in prison.

The girls' mental health therapist corroborated the image of the stepfather as a man who was reformed and respected boundaries at home. He said there were no signs the stepfather was trying to "groom" the daughters.

Two judges dissented from the majority. Judge William Connolly argued that the mother failed to introduce sufficient evidence that the children were not at risk.

Judge Lindsey Miller-Lerman said that she agreed with the majority's legal framework but strongly believed the father should have been awarded custody of the daughters.

"In my view, the record contains convincing evidence that [the sex offender] posed a significant risk of harm," she wrote.

Sources: New York Daily News, Omaha World-Herald / Photo credit: Tori Rector/Flickr

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