Determining child custody arrangements can be a stressful time for families. Emotions run high, and you may be dealing with an ex who wants more time with your child than you think is fair or who doesn’t want to support your child.
We understand that regardless of your situation, you need a child custody lawyer who will take the time to fully understand your case and advocate on your and your child’s behalf. Our skilled, compassionate Florida family law attorneys are ready to help you navigate Florida’s complex child custody system and get an outcome that best suits your family.
Our child custody lawyers at Panella Law Firm have an intricate knowledge of Florida family law and work daily to zealously advocate on your behalf. They have been recognized as Super Lawyers by Thomson Reuters and have perfect 10 scores on Avvo, a respected attorney rating system.
Attorney Michal Panella became passionate about the law at a young age following an unjust resolution for his family in a legal matter. Mr. Panella believes firmly in fighting against inequities in the legal system and brings this passion for justice to every case.
Attorney Huda Saleh has a history of getting the best possible outcomes for her clients in family law cases. She is a committed, compassionate attorney who understands that family law matters such as marriage dissolutions, paternity, and custody are particularly difficult for her clients.
Our child custody lawyers in Florida are very proud of the testimonials offered by our clients. We treat every client as an individual and follow through on our promises.
At Panella Law Firm, we understand it isn’t easy to turn to others for help in family matters such as child custody. You don’t want to split your family further or put your child in a situation of “choosing” between parents, grandparents, and other family members. If you have more than one child, you also have to worry about their relationships with each other.
You deserve a child custody lawyer who listens carefully to your concerns and answers all your questions in a straightforward, caring manner. Our goal at Panella Law is to relieve the burdens for you and your family while fighting fiercely to preserve your rights as a parent. We consider ourselves partners in your quest to get the best possible outcome for you and your child.
The prevailing theme across Florida child custody laws is “the best interest of the child.” It dictates how parents share time, who has responsibility for making decisions, and the details of support agreements.
The time your child spends with each parent is described in Florida Statute 61.13 as time-sharing rather than the commonly used term custody. The judge in your child custody dispute sets a schedule to meet your child’s best interests. They consider several factors when making their decisions, such as:
Parental responsibility is not the same as custody. Responsibility refers to which parent makes decisions for the child in specific areas such as education and health. The presumption under Florida law is that parents will share responsibilities, but exceptions exist.
You can ask for sole responsibility and custody if the other parent committed a third-degree or higher domestic violence offense or if their drug or substance use disorder puts your child in danger.
Even in cases when parents come to their own agreement regarding time-sharing, Florida courts must approve a parenting plan in child custody cases. If they disagree on a plan, the court establishes one. The parenting plan includes time-sharing schedules, parental responsibilities, and a description of the methods and technologies each parent will use to communicate with their children.
During a custody hearing, a guardian ad litem protects your child’s best interests. The judge may appoint one, particularly during a problematic contested hearing. You can also ask a judge to appoint one if you foresee problems. Not every custody case will have a guardian ad litem.
The guardian ad litem can access information such as health records, conduct interviews with parents and other parties, and talk to the child to investigate and prepare a report for the court.
If a parent violates a child-sharing agreement without proper cause, the court can intervene in several ways, including the following:
You must try to work out a parenting plan that best suits your child’s needs and that you can comply with. If you need help with your child custody case or need help dealing with an ex who isn’t following your parenting plan, contact the trusted family law attorneys at Panella Law Firm.
Florida courts determine child support based on the parents’ combined incomes, how many children are involved, and who the children live with. It uses a grid that lays out minimum payments per month.
Each parent must determine their income minus allowable expenses such as their own health insurance payments and child support for other children. The court determines each parent’s support obligation by multiplying their percentage of the combined monthly income by the total minimum support level.
If you have your child 100% of the time and contribute 30% of the joint income, your ex is liable for 70% of the minimum monthly support.
If there is an equal time-sharing agreement and both parents make about the same amount of money, there may be no child support order. The amount of support may be reduced if the child spends a significant amount of time with the parent who pays. The amount may be raised if the child has special needs.
In all, there are 11 deviations from the standard child support amounts listed in Florida law, which may adjust amounts up or down. It’s important to have a child custody lawyer who understands the ins and outs of Florida child support law to ensure your child’s needs are met.
The starting point for your child custody case depends on whether custody is part of a divorce agreement, if you are currently separated and seeking custody, or if you are unmarried. Following the initial divorce or custody filing, there are several steps both parents must take if they want the court to consider giving them shared time with their child.
Divorce is called a dissolution of marriage in Florida. Your lawyer will file a Petition for Dissolution with Dependent or Minor Child(ren) for custody cases. The other parent has 20 days to respond. You can also file temporary motions for support and custody arrangements.
Your attorney must file a different form if you are separated and want to open a child custody and support case. If you are unmarried, you must establish paternity to determine child custody arrangements and support payments. This may involve DNA testing if paternity is contested.
Both sides in a custody case deserve a full accounting of the other’s finances to reach a fair support agreement. Mandatory disclosures include things like financial affidavits. You may have to supply or have a right to see tax returns, bank account information, and other financial information.
Each parent must take a Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course within 45 days of the divorce filing. This four-hour course provides information about time-sharing and support, the emotional impact of family separations on children, and other details on parenting techniques and family dynamics designed to ease the effects of the process on your child.
Many counties in Florida require that families go through mediation before finalizing a dissolution of marriage. Mediation includes an attempt to devise a parenting plan you can agree upon.
If mediation doesn’t resolve issues surrounding your parenting plan, custody becomes part of your divorce trial. Both sides present evidence, and a judge makes final decisions on contested areas. A judge may also say that your agreement does not best meet the needs of the child and require a new one.
You probably have several questions if you are involved in a child custody case. These are some of the questions our clients often ask our child custody attorneys in Florida.
Can I ask for a change to my time-sharing schedule?
Florida law allows for modifications to parenting plans and time-sharing schedules if you can show a substantial, material, or unanticipated change of circumstances. Your child custody lawyer can help you frame your argument to the court in a way that shows you deserve modifications to your time-sharing agreement.
Can my child pick who they want to live with?
Children who are minors do not get to choose who they live with or how their time is shared between parents. However, a judge can consider the child’s wishes and use them to determine their best interests.
What happens if my ex-spouse has primary time-sharing and wants to move out of state?
Your ex must file a petition for relocation with the courts that demonstrates how the move is in the child’s best interest and how your existing time-sharing agreement will be met. You have 20 days after being served the petition to object and ask for a hearing. Your custody law attorney can help you file your objections and argue against a move if you can’t reach an agreement with your ex.
What should I do if my ex isn’t following our time-sharing agreement?
Contact your family law attorney immediately if your ex isn’t following your time-sharing agreement. Florida law allows for several remedies, including awarding you additional missed time.
How long will my child custody case take?
The length of your case will depend on how much you and the other parent could work out by mutual agreement before your custody hearing. Cases in which both parties agree on the terms can be signed quickly by a judge, but if there are time-sharing, support, or other issues that are contested, your case will take much longer.
You should never be afraid to ask questions of your child custody lawyer. If you want to file for divorce or custody or change your existing agreements, contact the family law attorneys at Panella Law Firm at 407-233-1822.
“I had the pleasure of working with attorney Huda with my time-sharing case, and she was amazing! My case was very difficult, and she did her best to make sure I wouldn’t be screwed over again like I was the first go-round with a different attorney. She had my back and looked out for the best interest of my child. Unfortunately, my ex passed away unexpectedly and the case will now have to be closed. I would recommend this firm to anyone who is looking for a good law firm that will fight for the best outcome for your case. Thank you again for everything!” — Brittany Smith (Google Review)
Child custody cases are complex and fraught with emotions. When you are working out a child custody arrangement in Florida, you can count on us to ensure that your rights are upheld and that your child’s best interests are truly being met.
When you need help with a child custody matter, contact the knowledgeable, passionate team at Panella Law Firm at 407-233-1822 to get the skilled assistance you need during this critical transition for your family.