Serving Families Since 1996

Family Law Mediators | Collaborative Law
Over 25 Years Serving Southwest Florida
(239) 334-0075



Child Custody | Parenting Coordination

Serving clients in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Estero, Bonita Springs, Naples, Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte, & LaBelle and throughout Florida

When it comes to family law, few things are as emotionally charged or complex as child custody parenting plans. We are using the term “child custody” here because that’s what people typically think of when they are getting a divorce, and have children, but in Florida that’s not quite the right term. The state of Florida calls this part of the divorce negotiation, creating a parenting plan. Within the parenting plan, we talk about who shares in parenting the children, who has the decision-making power surrounding the upbringing of the children, and what kind of a schedule the children will have with each of you as parents.  In a parenting plan custody encompasses both legal and physical aspects. Joint legal custody is typically preferred by Florida courts, and serves as the standard, where both you and your spouse will collaborate in making significant decisions regarding your children’s education, healthcare, extracurricular activities, and religious upbringing. Under Florida law, the courts prefer shared parental responsibility, ensuring that children maintain contact with both parents, even though one parent will typically have primary residence. While one parent will serve as the primary custodian, providing the child with a main residence for attending school, participating in community activities, and accessing primary healthcare, the other parent will be granted visitation rights. The welfare and future of your children is at stake, so it’s crucial that you navigate this process with empathy and understanding. Our divorce attorneys are experienced in the intricacies of parenting coordination and can help you establish a parenting plan or modify an existing plan. Bergermann Law Firm is unique because we have a counselor on staff who can assist in improving your relationship with your children and restore trust between you before a permanent parenting plan is chosen. Vera Bergermann is certified as a court-appointed Guardian ad Litem. As such she is trained to interview all of the appropriate people, examine all of the facts of the case and make a report to the court on what she believes is in the best interest of the children in terms of the parenting plan chosen. We can help you understand what custody means in practice, and help design a plan that is right for you, your children and your spouse. We are adept at helping you form realistic and practical solutions for difficult problems and come to workable compromises when it comes to visitation and parenting time, custody schedules and child support. Our law team has over 40 years of experience and a deep understanding of family dynamics. We strive to create solutions that prioritize the well-being of your children while advocating for your rights.

Stacia | Cape Coral, FL

Once I met with Vera I knew my children and I were in good hands. Unfortunately, I had started out with another lawyer who did a poor job representing me. Luckily, I heard about Vera from a friend and she did an amazing job fixing the mess the other lawyer had made. Her knowledge and compassion were comforting at the worst time in my life. I can’t speak highly enough about this remarkable lawyer.


What is a parenting plan?

A parenting plan is a legal document mandated for divorcing parents with minor children. It sets out how the child’s care will be handled post-divorce, and it’s legally binding. Here’s what it typically includes:

  1. Responsibilities for Daily Needs: This covers how parents will share responsibilities such as meals, healthcare, schooling, after-school and weekend activities, and bedtime.
  2. Healthcare Coverage: The document specifies which parent will include the child in their health care plan.
  3. Visitation Schedule: The parenting plan details the visitation or time-sharing schedule, including pick-up/drop-off times, weekend and holiday visits, school breaks, birthdays, and other events. Usually, the child spends time with the non-residential parent at least one evening per week and alternate weekends.
  4. Communication Methods: The plan outlines how parents will communicate with the child, whether through cell phones, third parties for daycare situations, email, Skype, or other video technology. It emphasizes that there should be no interference or denial of such communication.

If you and your estranged spouse can’t agree on these provisions, the court may appoint a parenting coordinator or possibly a Guardian ad Litem, whose fees are typically shared between both parties, to help you create a feasible plan. Alternatively, mediation can be pursued before the court steps in to draft the plan.

What factors does the court consider when approving parenting coordination plans?

The court evaluates various factors, including:

  1. The mental and physical health of each parent. Is there evidence of substance abuse, domestic violence, neglect, or involvement in frequent casual relationships? Do they frequently leave the child with third parties, or engage in behavior that undermines the other parent?
  2. Active involvement in the child’s education, social life, and community activities. Does the parent attend parent-teacher conferences? Are they familiar with the child’s friends, teachers, and healthcare providers?
  3. Ability to establish a routine for the children, including homework schedules, participation in extracurricular activities, provision of nutritious meals, individual sleeping arrangements, and adherence to regular bedtime routines.
  4. Proximity of parental residences. Does the child have to travel a significant distance between parents’ homes?
  5. Cooperation and reliability of each parent in facilitating visitation, pick-up, and drop-off arrangements, and communication regarding the child’s needs and activities.
  6. Consideration of the child’s age and maturity level to express a preference regarding primary custody.
  7. Presence of false allegations of abuse, domestic violence, or misconduct against the other parent.

Every parent is legally obligated to care for and support their children. Additionally, they hold certain rights, which in Florida include:

  1. The authority to make legal decisions impacting the child’s welfare.
  2. The authority to make decisions concerning the child’s education, place of residence, healthcare, religious upbringing, and disciplinary measures.
  3. The right to be present if the child is being questioned by law enforcement.
  4. Mandatory parental consent for minor children seeking abortion, although waivers may be granted.
  5. The right to rear their child without unwarranted interference.
  6. The right to spend time with the child through visitation or time-sharing arrangements if not designated as the primary custodian.
  7. If the child is under 18, parental consent is required for military enlistment and marriage.

The Florida Family Court system looks at various factors when determining shared parental custody. As parents you have a responsibility to protect, support, and care for your children, and according to Florida law, this means ensuring your children have: 

  1. Nutritious meals
  2. Sufficient clothing
  3. Access to education
  4. Access to healthcare, including medical and dental care

While one parent may possess greater capabilities or financial means to fulfill these needs, the other parent is still required to uphold a minimum level of support during the child’s visitation or while in their custody.

Child Support

A critical aspect of ensuring the well-being of your children during separation and after the divorce is finalized is ensuring their financial well-being through child support. Determining the appropriate amount of child support in Florida involves various factors, including full disclosure of both your and your spouse’s income, your children’s financial needs, and the overall financial circumstances of your family.  Our legal team is well-versed in child support laws and can provide guidance on child support obligations. In fact, we are especially skilled at child support guidance as Vera Bergermann has a master’s degree in taxation. So if someone is trying to hide income, she will find it to include it in the financial affidavit.  Who pays child support? As parents, you are both legally obligated to financially support your children, regardless of marital status. Typically, the parent who doesn’t have primary custody or spends less time with the child must provide monthly child support payments to the custodial parent. Florida has specific legal guidelines for the amount of child support that must be paid by the non-custodial parent. These guidelines establish standards for calculating the financial support necessary for a child and the corresponding amount a parent is obligated to pay.  These guidelines are applied when child support is initially ordered and whenever adjustments to the support amount are necessary. They also serve as the basis for reviewing existing support orders to determine if modifications are warranted. Factors considered within Florida’s child support guidelines include:
  • Both parents’ incomes
  • Costs associated with the child’s healthcare and childcare
  • Standard needs for the child, as detailed in a table provided in Florida law based on the child’s age and the parents’ net income.
When establishing support orders in Florida, courts or agencies are required to adhere to these guidelines. However, in certain circumstances, support amounts may deviate from the guidelines. For instance, a judge might consider a child’s significant medical expenses as grounds for adjusting the support amount. In such cases, judges typically provide written explanations for any deviations from the guideline amounts. If there’s disagreement, both you and your spouse must submit financial affidavits for assessment. Additional calculations may be necessary based on the amount of time your child spends with the non-custodial parent. Factoring in parenting time can complicate the child support calculations, that’s why divorce attorneys who are well-versed in math and taxation like our lawyers at Bergermann Law Firm will be so important for your case.


How much child support will I have to pay?

The child support amount is based on:

  • The number of children.
  • The income of both parents.
  • The child or children’s needs.
  • The cost of health insurance, uninsured medical expenses and child care.
At what age does child support stop in Florida?

Support orders typically end when your child reaches 18 years of age, however, your support orders outline the actual termination date. There are circumstances where support may extend beyond this age including:

  • Irrespective of a child’s age, if you are behind on your child support payments, you are legally obligated to settle up all past-due child support.
  • Your agreed-upon support orders may explicitly state that support will continue beyond the age of 18.
  • If your child is disabled.
  • If your child is still attending high school and will graduate before turning 19. Support does not automatically extend in this case. You should contact the Florida Department of Revenue six months before your child’s 18th birthday to assess whether support can continue until graduation. 
My situation has changed from when the court order was entered for child support. How can I request a review or change of my child support order?

As a parent involved in a child support case, you have the option to request a review of the support order from Florida’s Child Support Program, (part of the Florida Department of Revenue), to determine if any changes are warranted. Alternatively, you can file a petition in your local circuit court to seek modification of your support order. The state may modify your orders if there is a significant change in your financial situation or that of the parent who owes support. The amount recalculated for a requested modification is based on guidelines set by Florida law. Normally, a modification petition is filed with the court only if the guidelines show the amount should change by at least 15% or $50 monthly, whichever is greater. If this is an interstate case (involving another state), there may be additional restrictions. Once the process is started, Florida’s Child Support Program is required to pursue it to completion even if it means the parent who owes support will pay less.

What can I do if my spouse is not paying the child support they were ordered to pay?

After a child support order is established, the Florida Child Support Program (part of the Florida Department of Revenue) oversees the payment process. When payments are not made as required, the state can take various actions to encourage payment compliance, including:

  1. Sending late payment notices.
  2. Suspending Florida driver licenses.
  3. Garnishing support payments from reemployment and worker’s compensation.
  4. Garnishing support payments from the parent’s paycheck and bonuses.
  5. Reporting past-due support to credit agencies.
  6. Suspending business, professional, and recreational licenses.
  7. Placing liens on personal property.
  8. Seizing federal income tax refunds.
  9. Seizing Florida lottery winnings over $600.
  10. Seizing funds from insurance or other legal settlements.
  11. Reclaiming funds from unclaimed property turned over to the state of Florida.
  12. Negotiating payment agreements to collect past-due support.
  13. Filing motions in circuit court.
  14. Freezing bank accounts
My ex-spouse has moved out of state, what happens with my child support now?

In cases where the parent entitled to support and the parent responsible for support reside in different states, the Florida Child Support Program collaborates with child support agencies in those respective states. When such cases are transferred to another state, it’s imperative to allow the receiving state’s child support enforcement office and court system to handle the matter according to their procedures and timelines. Additionally, both the United States and the State of Florida have established international agreements with several foreign countries to facilitate the establishment and enforcement of child support obligations. These agreements ensure cooperation and assistance in matters of cross-border child support.