Child Custody, Support and Visitation
Florida Family Law Attorney
North Miami Beach child custody lawyer Michael Lechtman provides comprehensive legal representation in all matters relating to child custody, support, and visitation. For over 39 years, he has helped families resolve emotional disputes regarding time-sharing, living arrangements, and financial maintenance. When it comes to dividing parental duties after a divorce, Michael Lechtman helps parents set aside personal differences in the best interests of the child. His office serves clients in South Florida communities including Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale, and Dade County.
Joint Custody, Time-Sharing, and Visitation
Florida Statute § 61.13 requires parents to pay support for a child, parent, or third party with custody of the child. The court has discretion to order or modify payments according to the child support guidelines set forth in § 61.30. Florida law refers to joint custody arrangements as time-sharing: one parent has physical custody of the child while the other is awarded visitation. The purpose of establishing a parenting plan and time-sharing schedule is to serve the best interests of the child by preserving a meaningful relationship with both parents. In making this determination, courts may consider various factors, including:
- Completion of parenting course
- Any sexual or domestic violence
- Evidence of child abuse or neglect
- Consent to relocation of one parent
- Shared or sole parental responsibility
- No contact or supervised time-sharing
- Living arrangement, financial standing
- Parents’ mental health and moral fitness
- Involvement in school, outside activities
Because divorce is already a contentious process, issues of custody, support, and visitation can quickly become adversarial. Parents often use children as pawns to punish the other party. An experienced advocate can help parties clearly identify the goal of establishing a parenting plan, effectively negotiating a reasonable custody and support agreement that meets their financial needs. Whenever possible, mediation is preferable to litigation because it is saves time and money. But skillful representation is critical to prevailing in court if trial becomes necessary.
Modification and Enforcement of Decrees
Once the parties arrive at a parenting plan, circumstances may change. Child custody, support, and visitation decrees may require modification to meet evolving needs. Courts may enforce support orders where parents are delinquent or fail to make payments. Custody arrangements must likewise alter in cases of domestic violence. But courts can only modify parenting plans and time-sharing schedules if there is a significant, substantial, and unforeseeable change in circumstances. Under § 61.13, courts must evaluate all the factors affecting the child, including:
- Detriment to the child
- Time-sharing violations
- Prevention of future harm
- Relocation for employment
- Domestic violence injunction
- Parents’ respective net incomes
- Allocation of transportation costs
- Active military service, deployment
Parental responsibility often requires review after normal life changes such as those involving a child’s developmental needs or a parent’s remarriage or loss of employment. A parent who refuses to honor the time-sharing schedule may be responsible for court costs and attorneys’ fees incurred by the parent to enforce the order. Spending significant overnight time with the child, on the other hand, may make the parent eligible for a reduction in support payments. However, failure to pay alimony or child support never justifies depriving the parent of time with the child.
Getting Help With Child Custody
If you need help negotiating a child custody and support agreement or require modification and enforcement of an existing order, contact South Florida family law attorney Michael Lechtman today. For over 39 years, he has successfully represented parents through the mediation process to arrive at reasonable custody and support settlements, while protecting parental rights in court when necessary. Mr. Lechtman has also helped numerous families modify post-judgment issues to meet changing needs. He also proudly represents South Florida residents around the world in military divorce proceedings. Call (305) 652-9500 today for a consultation or contact us online.