Young v. Hector
740 So. 2d 1153 (Fla. 3d DCA 1998)

Facts:

  • At the time of their marriage in 1982, both the father and mother were successful professionals in New Mexico.
    • Father was an architectural designer / entrepreneur and mother was an attorney.
  • They became the parents of two daughters born in 1985 and 1988.
  • After the birth of their children, both parents continued to work outside of the home and pursued their respective professional endeavors with the assistance of a live-in nanny.
  • They later agreed to move to Miami after the father’s business began to suffer and the mother became bored with her practice.
  • Once in Miami, the mother began to have serious discussions (which eventually escalated into arguments) about the father’s need to find gainful employment.
    • Instead, he never got a job, and from 1990-1993, was frequently out of the state and away from the family (brother was ill, took care of some things in NM, went on a treasure hunt).
    • They had a live-in nanny during this time as well.
  • When the father finally returned to South Florida, in the fall of 1993, the mother had accepted a partnership position with a large Florida law firm at a salary of approximately $300,000 annually.
  • That year she asked the father for a divorce. After this, the father spent less of his time away from the family, but remained unemployed.
  • Father claimed he was “Mr. Mom.”

History:
The trial court awarded custody of both kids to the mother.

  • The court stated, “Maybe I’m missing something. Why don’t you get a job?”
    • Father replied that architecture nowadays is all computerized and he was computer illiterate.
  • It was also skeptical that he was Mr. Mom when they had a nanny.
  • The father argued that the court engaged in impermissible gender bias.

Issue:
Whether the trial court abused its discretion when it determined that the best interests of the two minor children dictated that their mother be designated their primary custodial parent.

Holding:
No. Affirmed.

Reasoning:

  • In recommending that the mother be named the primary custodial parent, the guardian ad litem cited three factors:
    • The guardian noted that the mother had been the more economically stable of the two parents throughout the marriage;
    • The mother had been a constant factor and dominant influence in the children’s lives and the father had not; and
    • The mother’s superior ability to control her anger around the children.
  • The court felt that the trial court decision was supported by substantial competent evidence and held that there was no abuse of discretion.

Dissent:

  • Clearly gender bias – if facts were reversed and father was the attorney and mother was the stay at home architect, father would’ve been “laughed out of court” if he sought custody.
  • Additionally, no one would question why a woman wasn’t working if her husband was making $300,000.
  • Mother also acquiesced in father staying at home.