Putative Father Registry

Florida’s Putative Father Registry

Putative Father RegistryWhile most people are unfamiliar with Florida’s putative father registry, any unmarried biological father would be well served to learn as much as they can about it. The best way to think about the putative father registry is that it is a database of unmarried biological fathers. The purpose for filing a “claim” with the registry is to preserve your right to notice and consent should the mother of that child ever put the child up for adoption.  When filing a “Claim of Paternity” you will be asked general information about yourself as well as the mother and the child. Providing as much information as possible will increase your chances of being “found” in the event that the mother attempts to place the child for adoption.

While filing a claim with the registry is an important first step in ensuring some very basic rights as the biological father, additional steps need to be taken to establish a legal right to visitation with your child. 

Contact Benjamin & Melmer, LLC for more information about what we can do for you. We can help ensure your rights are protected.


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Summer Doesn’t Have to Mean Conflict With Your Ex

It’s that time of year again in South Florida. The days are longer, the weather hotter and the afternoon’s wetter. Summer is here. That also means summer vacation for the children is upon us. For divorced parents, this time also means heightened stress and potential conflict with your ex-spouse.

However, this does not have to be the case. As we often tell our clients, communication is key. Whether it is the details for out-of-town vacations or the new schedule for summer camps, a clear and open line of communication between co-parents is often the lynchpin of a stress and conflict free summer. Communication should not stop with your ex-spouse. Talk with your children about your summer plans to prepare them for the upcoming schedule.

Also, preparation is important for a smooth summer. Make sure all documentation necessary to effectuate trips (passports, written parental consents, court orders, etc.) are in place well before any summer travel plans are booked. Lastly, don’t make the summer about you! Find ways to incorporate your children’s wishes and best interests into any summer plans and leave any bad-blood and competition with your ex-spouse out of the equation. Children want to be with their parents, but, most of all, they want to be with a happy parent who is focused on them. Becoming distracted by an unhealthy and destructive sense of competition with your ex-spouse can have long term consequences for both you and your children.

However, despite your best efforts, we here at Benjamin & Melmer, LLC understand that conflict and strife may be unavoidable. In such cases, we are here to offer you the effective and healthy representation you deserve. Call our Office today to schedule a consultation to go over your legal rights when the heat of summer turns into legal complications with your ex-spouse.

Here is one good article on tips for a divorced parent to navigate summer vacation:


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Biological Father’s

Biological Father’s Paternity Battle Heard In Florida Supreme Court

 Biological Father’s The Florida Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in a Florida man’s legal battle to gain paternity rights toward his biological daughter. The man is the biological father of the young girl, but the child’s Mother was married to another man at the time of her birth. The Mother’s legal Husband wants to maintain his relationship with the child and is unwilling to give up his parental rights, even knowing he is not the biological father of the young girl.

This case highlights an often-unknown aspect of Florida law, one that may be out-of-step with the ever-changing composition of the modern family. Under Florida law, a child born during an intact marriage is the legal child of the Husband of the Mother. If it is later discovered that the biological father of the child is another man, that other man still is not entitled to any rights over the child unless the legal father (the legal Husband of the Mother) gives up his parental rights.

The biological Father’s attorney in this case argued that the notion that a child can have only two parents is outdated and should be changed. However, it would seem from questions at oral arguments, the Florida Supreme Court Justices were leaning toward upholding the law and leaving it to the Florida Legislature to modernize the paternity statute, if they were so inclined. Ultimately, according to statements from the biological Father, this issue may make its way to the United States Supreme Court.

Regardless of the outcome, this case highlights the need to seek the counsel of an experienced Family Law attorney when facing issues surrounding paternity. The outcome you think should happen may not always be supported by the laws of Florida. We here at Benjamin & Melmer, LLC stand ready to consult with you regarding any paternity issue you may have.


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Prosecutors Seek Jail for Good Samaritan

Prosecutors have immense power. That fact is demonstrated every day in courthouses throughout America. One such instance came in Palm Beach County, where a witness and good Samaritan who thwarted an attempted purse-snatching, was before a criminal judge charged with contempt of court.

The good Samaritan, Corey Wyatt, chased down and caught a purse-snatcher in a Boyton Beach Publix shopping center. However, when the prosecution sought Wyatt’s cooperation in testifying against that criminal, he was less-than helpful. Wyatt, according to the Assistant State Attorney prosecuting the matter, at first reluctantly agreed to appear at trial. Nonetheless, despite being under a court-issued subpoena, Wyatt was a no-show for the criminal trial. The criminal defendant was convicted without Wyatt’s testimony, but the prosecutor, in a rather unusual step, charged Wyatt with contempt of court.

UntitledAs Corey Wyatt discovered, hell hath no fury like a prosecutor scorned. Failure to abide by a duly issued court subpoena carries with it severe repercussions, including criminal prosecution for contempt and, possibly, jail time. In an even more unusual move, the Palm Beach Assistant State Attorney in Wyatt’s case, following his conviction, requested jail time. The Judge, luckily, had the sense to deny this rather extreme request.

The power of a prosecutor is immense. That is why most young prosecutors are trained to use their powers in the pursuit of justice carefully and with respect. When a witness or victim fails to abide by a subpoena, it often leaves these prosecutors, who are seeking some form of justice for victims and the community, frustrated. In addition, a witness’s failure to appear for at trial could lead to a dangerous criminal’s acquittal and may even have the secondary effect of diminishing the effect of a subpoena to persuade individuals to act accordingly. However, most individuals, like Wyatt, have their reasons for not appearing (it appears Wyatt had a job interview), and jailing these witnesses for failing to appear is unlikely to scare future witnesses into following subpoenas. The balance between punishment and compassion is often a difficult one for a good prosecutor to walk, but one that must be done nonetheless.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, we here at Benjamin & Melmer, LLC, suggest seeking the counsel of an experienced and dedicated criminal defense attorney. Witnesses have rights. We stand ready to take your call to set up a consultation.


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Avoiding Child Support Leads To Serious Legal Trouble

Child-SupportRecently, a Broward County man mysteriously disappeared while paddle-boarding in the Atlantic Ocean.https://hrld.us/2pPQhjE George Theoharis disappeared on March 20, 2018, the very same day he was set to appear in Family Court to answer for allegations from his ex-Wife that he owed nearly half a million dollars in back child support payments.

This disappearance may be serious. Or it may be a not-so-subtle attempt at avoiding an obscene amount of child support arrears. If it is the latter, Mr. Theoharis is employing a terrible legal strategy. Back child support can lead to serious legal repercussions. A judge can find that one’s failure to pay child support was an intentional act, and therefore find you in contempt of court. Contempt of court carries extremely serious legal repercussions, including fines, payment of legal fees and, in extreme cases, even jail time. Needless to say, a decision not to pay child support is never a good idea.

However, circumstances can often arise where paying child support can be financially impossible. In such limited circumstances, rather than intentionally disobeying a court order, which is never a good idea, we here at Benjamin & Melmer, LLC recommend you consult with an experienced Family Law attorney to review your legal options. You may be able to file a Supplemental Petition to Amend Child Support or have another legal remedy at your disposal. However, what is never recommended is to simply run away and burry your head in the sand. The ostrich approach will surely leave you in a worse position than you already are.

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Bill Allowing Breaking of Lease Without Penalty for Domestic Violence Victims a Step in the Right Direction


The Georgia House of Representatives recently passed House Bill 834, which would eliminate early termination penalties for victims of domestic violence who break a lease. The proposed law would allow the termination of a residential lease 30 days after providing a landlord written notice of the issuance of a protective injunction for the protection of domestic violence. The measure passed the House of Representatives by a unanimous vote (166-0).

Fears of financial hardships are often cited by victims as the primary reason for staying with an abuser. However, laws such as those passed in Georgia would help ease this fear, in at least one area. Here in Florida, domestic violence victims can access relocation assistance programs through the Florida Attorney General’s Crime Victim Compensation Program. Under Florida Statute, Section 960.198, an award of $1,500 per claim, with a lifetime limit of $3,000, can be awarded to those domestic violence victims who cooperate with law enforcement authorities investigating the crimes, such as the police or the State Attorney’s Office. In order to receive these funds, these law enforcement officials must certify that a victim is assisting in their efforts to punish the abuser. http://www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/domestic-violence/relocation-assistant-programs

However, more assistance is needed to fully aid victims in their often-desperate attempts to free themselves and their loved-ones from an abusive relationship. Bills such as those passed a few days ago in Georgia can provide some small comfort to these victims looking to leave a dangerous situation. Of course, the proposed Georgia law would require a victim to show proof of the incident of domestic violence, such as a police report or a protective injunction. We here at Benjamin & Melmer, LLC, applaud the members of the Georgia House of Representatives for passing this proposed law, and urge the members of Florida’s Legislature to follow their example.

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The Connection Between Domestic Violence and Mass Shootings


While many states, including Florida, have temporary bans on firearm possession and ownership for individuals who have active domestic violence injunctions, Oregon recently took things a bit further by passing legislature that would outright ban anyone with a domestic violence or stalking conviction from ever buying or owning a firearm.

With the number of mass shootings on the rise this will likely be the first of many new gun control measures that will be passed at the state level.   And while it may not appear on its face to address the increase in mass shootings, there is a very real connection between domestic violence in the home and the individuals that commit these shootings.

Statistically, in the majority of mass shootings in the US (54%) one of the victims was either a family member or intimate partner of the shooter.  With domestic violence being the cycle that it is, it is unlikely that these acts of violence were the first one’s directed at these family members or intimate partners.

Some of these individuals, like Devin Kelley who killed 26 people in Sutherland Springs, TX, had prior domestic violence convictions.  If a law similar to the one just passed in Oregon was on the books in Texas, Devin Kelley would have had a much harder time getting his hands on the firearm(s) he used to kill those 26 people

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The Need to Manage Client Expectations in Family Law Cases

Anyone who has ever done or sat in on a consultation for a potential family law client knows the importance of managing a client’s expectation from the onset.  Inevitably there will always be those potential clients who are looking for the moon and the stars and are unrealistic with regards to their desired outcome.  While this is present in many practice areas, I believe it to be most prevalent in family law cases due to the very personal and emotional nature of virtually all the cases.  Now I’m not faulting these individuals for wanting to get the most they possible can out of their case.

Most people who seek out a family law attorney have never needed the services of a lawyer and know little about Florida law as it pertains to family cases.  Thus, they don’t realize how difficult it is to get things such as sole parental responsibility, 100% time-sharing, supervised visitation, permanent alimony in a short-term marriage, etc.  That’s where the family law attorney comes in.  From the very first meeting a quality family law attorney will go over all the aspects of the potential client’s case and assess whether their desired outcome is even remotely attainable.

The potential client needs to fight that temptation to look for a family law attorney that will pump them up and tell them everything their looking to hear. This will almost certainly end badly for both the client and the family law lawyer.  Remember, an attorney’s job is not to tell you what you want to hear, it’s to tell you what you need to hear so that the client can make an informed decision. The last thing that either side wants is to walk out of court or the mediator’s office and have the client turn to them and say, “what just happened?”

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