Sex offenders and their children

Few, if any, people are as hated in our country as sex offenders, particularly those sex offenders who commit crimes against children.

With that said, then, the purpose of this column is not to further demonize those offenders.

Instead, the purpose of this column to briefly address what happens to the children of these sex offenders…  And, no, I am not referring to children who were the direct victims of crimes.   Rather, I am referring to the children that ‘belong to’ the sexual offenders (i.e. their biological or step children).

Think about it…  We rarely ever hear about what happens to those children, right?   Well, that’s the purpose of this column.

The collateral damage to the children of the sexual offenders is huge.  These children have elevated risks of depression, anxiety, and suicidal tendencies.   It may surprise you, too, to know that the children of sexual offenders experience stigmatization and harassment from others (like their parent).   This is, of course, completely unfair; but, it’s a reality.

Now, of course, these are longer term effects.  So, what happens in the short term?    What happens to the children immediately after their parent’s conduct becomes known?

Well, in the short term, it is often unlikely that the offender will receive much, if any, unsupervised parenting time with their child(ren).

Once the offence is discovered (depending on the seriousness of the offence), the Ministry of Children and Family Development would likely oppose the child being in the (unsupervised) care of that parent.   The Ministry’s mandate is, of course, to protect children.

Beyond that, too, it probably won’t surprise you to know that the other parent (who was NOT involved in the sexual offences) will likely oppose any contact between the child and their former spouse.  If that occurs, then a bitter court action will likely ensue.

Now, it is generally presumed (in court) that a child will benefit from spending time with both parents.  But, that presumption can be ‘set aside’ when one of the parents has a history of criminal or dangerous behaviour that may harm the child.    And, of course, that includes a parent who has a history of committing sexual offences.

So, as a result, if the matter went to the court, a parent who has a lengthy and/or serious history of sexual offending behaviour would likely have a difficult time getting unsupervised parenting time (and may even receive ZERO time with their child).

For instance, in J.M.G. v. T.H.P, 2007 BCPC 142, a father had a history of sexual offences that occurred prior to the birth of his son, who was three years old at the time of trial.   In that case, the judge found that it would be in the best interest of the son to grow up (at least for several years) without a relationship with his father, who was a thought to be a very bad influence.

With all that said, though, it is POSSIBLE, depending on the facts in a case, that a sexual offender may receive parenting time.   Such parenting time would likely be supervised, though.  And, to explain, supervised parenting time refers to time that the parent can spend with the child in a supervised setting, typically supervised by a social or community worker or a friend or family member.

Please know that this particular topic is huge.  And, my column surely can’t do it justice.  But, if there is one thing that I can make clear, it’s this: have sympathy for the children (and don’t take out your frustrations on them).   Because of their parent’s actions, their lives are forever changed.

And now you know.

**The information contained in this column should not be treated by readers as legal advice and should not be relied on without detailed legal counsel being sought.

Column originally posted on Castanet.net on September 17, 2014: Sex offenders and their children.

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