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Legitimation in The Walking Dead - Team Shane or Team Rick?

Kind of a Halloween pondering on Legitimation, it seems, from our Marietta and Atlanta divorce attorney, Megan McClinton.

One night early in the zombie apocalypse universe of The Walking Dead, Shane, the best friend and police partner to our anti-hero Rick Grimes, has an extra marital affair with Rick's wife Lori while the government bombs a zombie-infested Atlanta.

Shane and Lori were a part of the same camp, taking refuge with each other after Shane falsely tells Lori that Rick is dead. However, once Lori finds out that Rick is alive and Rick joins their camp, Lori immediately breaks things off with Shane to be with her husband.

Well, long story short, we find out later that Lori is pregnant. Of course. But who's the father to Lori's baby? Is it Shane, her illicit lover, or is it Rick, whom she reunited with a month after the zombie apocalypse destroyed civilization?

This is a question we're still left wondering, even after Rick kills Shane in Season 2 and Lori dies during childbirth in Season 3. We're now in Season 6 and Rick has been raising baby Judith as his own, with the help of his group, guarding her from the perils of zombies and other strange people. Even though he'll probably never know if Judith is biologically his daughter, Rick has risked his life to love and keep Judith safe.

Every time baby Judith appears on screen, I wonder about legitimation in the world of The Walking Dead. And as a family law attorney, I of course start pondering: What are Rick's legal options? (Such is my life.)

In Georgia, a child like Judith that's the "issue" of an affair of the wife during wedlock is NOT legitimated to the lover. She is the child of the husband and therefore a child of the marriage.  Because she is born to married parents, she's presumed to be Rick's child - a presumption that Shane would have to rebut.

A likely scenario would be Shane wanting access to Judith as his child. Shane would need to file a paternity action and seek a court order for Lori, himself, and Judith to have genetic testing to prove paternity. He would also need to provide a sworn statement alleging paternity and set forth the facts establishing his affair with Lori. Lori would have to show good cause not to submit to the genetic testing, which is enforceable by contempt. If she had good cause, she could request that the paternity action be dismissed.

Shane proving his paternity of Judith means that Shane could then request legitimation of Judith as his daughter. But first he would have to terminate Rick's parental rights. No easy feat even when there isn't a zombie apocalypse in your neighborhood.

Legitimation brings parental rights with it, such as visitation and/or custody (legal and physical), and Judith could inherit from Shane, if he could ever get rid of Rick. If Shane hadn't gone nutty and died in Season 2 (By "Corrrral" no less), I have no doubt that there would have been a fight over Judith. Probably not in court, though.

But let's be real - we all know that "Lil' Asskicker" is 100% Rick Grime's baby girl. Duh.

Megan McClinton

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