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The Walking Dead: Who Is Judith’s Legal Father?

AMC’s The Walking Dead recently premiered its season 8 debut.  For the uninitiated, The Walking Dead follows former deputy sheriff Rick Grimes and others as they navigate a post-apocalyptic world of zombies (which they call “walkers”).

The Human Element of The Walking Dead

Even more interesting than interactions with the walkers, the show focuses in on the interaction between people.  Rick and the gang have fought off a host of bad guys.  A one-eyed psychotic governor.  Bar-B-Que loving cannibals.  Most recently, a baseball bat-wielding sadist with a sophomoric sense of humor.

But the most fascinating part of the show may just be its human drama surrounding relationships between Rick and his family.  Last season, Rick made a startling admission to Michone.  Michone is a samurai sword brandishing badass and Rick’s current love interest.  The admission concerned Rick’s daughter, Judith.

When the apocalypse started, Rick had been separated from his wife, Lori.  Lori escaped the initial chaos with Rick’s best friend, Shane.  Shane and Lori thought Rick had died with the initial wave of walkers, and Shane and Lori became romantically involved.

Lori and Shane’s relationship ended when they learned Rick was still alive.  Inevitably, tensions rose between Shane and Rick, which lead to Rick killing Shane.  Eventually, Lori gave birth to a child, Judith, though Lori did not survive the birth.

Which brings us back to Rick’s admission to Michone.  Rick tells Michone he knows that Shane is Judith’s biological father.

So who is Judith’s legal father?

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Receiving Florida Child Support By Direct Deposit

If you have minor children and are going through a divorce or paternity matter in Florida, then someone is likely going to have to pay child support to the other parent.  Child support by default is paid through the Central Governmental Depository and State Disbursement Unit, which is a system for the courts to ensure that child support is being paid.

Usually, a judge will sign an Income Withholding Order that is sent to the payor’s employer.  The employer will automatically deduct the child support from the payor’s paycheck, and then send the payment to the State Disbursement Unit (“SDU”).  The SDU makes a record of the payment, and then sends the child support payment via debit card to the payee.

But, if you are receiving child support in Florida, you can choose to get it via direct deposit.

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What is the Purpose of Florida Family Law?

Anyone who has gone through a divorce, paternity, or other family law proceeding in Hillsborough County or elsewhere in Florida may have wondered: What is the purpose of Florida Family Law?

Well, section 61.001(2) purports to have an answer:

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Sample Florida Child Custody Schedules

In each Florida family law case (such as divorce or paternity) that involves the custody of a child, Florida law requires that a parenting plan be established.  One of the most important elements of a parenting plan is the child custody schedule, now known as a “time-sharing” schedule.

Family Law Tip:  You should never let a judge decide your child’s time-sharing schedule.  A judge does not know your family dynamics and bases such decisions on very limited information, and usually the judge is seeing parents, especially divorcing parents, at the worst time in their lives.  Instead, you and your co-parent should use a private form of dispute resolution, such as collaborative family law.

As I tell clients who come to my Tampa office, there are many different types of time-sharing schedules.  Below are some samples provided by the 12th Judicial Circuit (which includes Sarasota and Manatee Counties).  The parent who is listed in a box is the one whom the child will be staying with overnight:

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Florida Divorce, Financial Affidavits, and Privacy

In almost any Florida family law matter that involves financial issues, such as child support, alimony, division of property and debt, or attorney’s fees, parties are required to exchange and file Florida Family Law Financial Affidavits.  Financial Affidavits outline each party’s source(s) of income, as well as expenses, assets, and liabilities.

And, when they are filed, they become part of the public record, accessible by anyone.

Most people, for any number reasons, do not want their financial profile to become public.  And yet, when people go through the traditional litigated divorce, that’s exactly what happens.

But it does not need to be that way.

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Treatment of Children in Hillsborough County Family Law Cases

When a person files for divorce (or other family law action involving children) in Tampa, he or she will be provided with a temporary standing order which outlines how he or she should treat children during the matter.  The temporary standing order provides the following guidance:

The safety, financial security, and well being of the children involved in this case are the judge’s primary concern. It is the law that, except in certain rare circumstances, both parents will share parental responsibility for all minor children involved in this case. The law requires parents to share the children’s time and to participate together in making all important decisions concerning the children. The law expects parents to put aside their feelings and cooperate on all decisions involving the children. The following guidelines apply:

A. Children have a right to a loving, open and continuing relationship with both parents. They have the right to express love, affection and respect for one parent in the presence of the other parent.

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Pinellas County’s Standing Notice for Family Law Cases with Minor Children

When you file a family law case in a Tampa Bay court that involves children (such as divorce, paternity, or modification of a parenting plan), you will get a standing notice or order which prescribes how parents should treat one another and their children.

For the most part, parents that utilize common sense and common courtesy should have no problem sticking to these standing requirements. Below are excerpts of the requirements in Pinellas County:

1. CONTACT WITH BOTH PARENTS; SHARED PARENTING:

1.1. Contact with both parents is generally in the children’s best interests. Children are entitled to “frequent and continuing contact with both parents when the parents separate or divorce” as a matter of law.

1.2 The “primary residential parent” has an “affirmative obligation to encourage and  nurture a relationship between the children and the alternate residential parent.” A parent who restricts access of the children to the other parent and who does not encourage a relationship between the children and the other parent, perhaps should not be designated the “primary residential parent, ” as this is not acting in the children’s best interests and is not following the law.

1.3. In nearly all cases, the court orders “shared parental responsibility” of the children, which means co-parenting. The parents must confer with each other and agree on parenting decisions. Both parents must participate in all parenting  decisions and work out their time sharing schedules. If the parents cannot agree on any issue, then the court will decide.

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In A Florida Child Custody Case, Does It Matter That I Am Gay?

I have been seeing more clients who are coming out of the closet either during or following their divorce (or during a child custody case not related to divorce). Each client has asked whether the Florida court is going to take into consideration his or her sexual orientation.

Though, in determining child custody matters, a Florida judge must take into consideration the “moral fitness” of the parents (see Florida Statutes Section 61.13(3)(f)), the court may not make a custody determination based solely on whether a parent is gay. In fact, a parent’s sexual orientation should not be a determining factor unless it has a direct negative impact on the welfare of the child.

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What is a Florida Parenting Plan?

For every Florida divorce case in which child custody issues are being decided, the judge must enter a parenting plan.

A parenting plan is a document that sets out parents’ rights and responsibilities towards their children.  The parenting plan will explain each parent’s right to make major decisions concerning the children (such as education or medical decisions).  The parenting plan will also flesh out each parent’s right to spend time with the children and detail which specific days the children will sleep overnight at each parent’s home.

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Hillsborough County Clerk of the Court Cuts Hours

Due to budget cuts, the Hillsborough County Clerk of the Court is reducing the hours it will handle court-related services.  Beginning July 1, 2012, the hours were cut to 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.  This will affect the filing and processing of family law (i.e., adoption, divorce, paternity, child support, child custody, name change, etc.) documents.

If you have a Tampa family law case and you wish to scheduled a consultation with a Florida family law attorney, contact The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., at (813) 443-0615 or fill out our online form.