Orlando Child Custody Lawyer

Help From Skilled, Compassionate Orlando Child Custody Lawyers

Panella Law Firm Accepts Cases Throughout Florida

Get Experienced Legal Help To Fight For Your Parental Rights

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 Orlando family law attorneys are ready to help you navigate Florida’s complex child custody system and get an outcome that best suits your family.

Why Choose Us

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 Orlando are very proud of the testimonials offered by our clients. We treat every client as an individual and follow through on our promises.

How We Can Help

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. If you’re in need, our Lawyers for child custody in Orlando are here to support you.

Important Florida Child Custody Terms To Know

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:

  • Which parent provides the most stable home environment
  • The physical and mental health of both parents
  • The child’s health and safety
  • How each parent can meet the child’s developmental needs
  • The moral fitness of both parents
  • Whether each parent will encourage a positive relationship between the child and the other parent.

Parental Responsibility

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.

Parenting Plan

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.

Guardian Ad Litem

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.

What Happens If A Parent Violates A Time-sharing Agreement In Florida?

If a parent violates a child-sharing agreement without proper cause, the court can intervene in several ways, including the following:

  • They may give the parent who was denied their time additional time-sharing to make up for what was missed. It is scheduled in a way that is convenient for the non-offending parent and at the expense of the parent who was not compliant.
  • They can order the non-compliant parent to pay court costs and attorney’s fees to the parent who was denied time.
  • They may order a parenting course for the non-compliant parent.
  • They may order community service for the non-compliant parent if it doesn’t interfere with the child’s welfare.
  • If the non-compliant parent and the child live more than 60 miles from the parent who is denied time, they may order the non-compliant parent to pay for promoting more frequent contact.
  • They could modify the parenting plan if it is in the best interest of the child.
  • They may impose other reasonable sanctions on the non-compliant parent.

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. An experienced Orlando family lawyer can provide the guidance and support you

How Does Child Support Work In Florida?

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. However, child support lawyers in Orlando would highlight that the amount of support may be reduced if the child spends a significant amount of time with the parent who pays. On the other hand, those same child support lawyers in Orlando would advise that 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.

What Steps Are Involved In A Florida Child Custody Case?

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, a step where having a Lawyer for divorce in Orlando can be pivotal, there are several steps both parents must take if they want the court to consider giving them shared time with their child.

File For Divorce, Child Custody During A Separation, Or Establishing Paternity

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.

File Mandatory Discovery Disclosures

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.

Take A Parenting Class

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.

Attend Mediation

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.

Go To Trial

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.

Common Questions About Florida Child Custody Cases

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 Orlando, 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  407-602-6559.

Client Testimonial

“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)

Consult With A Skilled Child Custody Attorney In Florida Today

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 407-602-6559 to get the skilled assistance you need during this critical transition for your family.

Attorney Mike Panella

For Mike Panella, the concept of zealous advocacy developed at an early age – fueled by what he perceived to be an unjust resolution in a personal family legal matter. Mr. Panella would later attribute his passion to defend the rights of those who stand accused to those inequities in the legal system he observed, and considered unjust. Before opening Panella Law Firm, Mr. Panella served as an Assistant Public Defender for Florida’s 18th Judicial Circuit Public Defender’s Office and worked hundreds of cases in both Brevard and Seminole Counties. Mr. Panella was undefeated at trial. [ Attorney Bio ]

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