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Young v. Hector (1999) Petition: Appeal from a final judgment of dissolution of marriage [main controversy, custody over children after divorce] Appellant: Robert S. Young Appellee: Alice G. Hector rd Ponente: Per Curiam (District Court of Appeals of Florida, 3 Dist.]; and then, reversing itself, through the opinion penned by J. Green Date: 24 June 1998; 14 July 1999 Facts: Equitable division of marital assets/liabilities o Child custody facts: Both spouses described as good parents Robert phenomenal with kids (1993-onwards) o Soccer coach o Picks up kids from school o Coordinates play dates o Active in school functions Alice “cooler” w/ them, but makes sure to spend quality time with them nonetheless (in spite of her sched.) o Mostly makes herself available on weekends o Takes them out (movies, beach, zoo, etc.) o Court granted primary custody to Alice (w/ generous visitation rights to Robert) Alice more economically stable Alice most constant factor throughout the entire relationship (Noting that Robert had been away for significant parts of the children’s lives.) Alice controls anger better around kids Robert was even recommended to undergo Anger Management Therapy o Disposition: Primary custody to Alice No permanent alimony for Robert – only rehabilitative alimony for four monts ($2K/mo.) Distributed marital assets/debts Robert awarded $10K in attorney’s fees Robert appealed decision of lower court o Trial court abused discretion by granting primary residential custody to Attorney st Fla. Dist. CA (1 tme around): o AGREED w/ Robert Main contention: Trial Court should have awarded primary custody in view of preserving the caretaking roles that had already been established Robert = “Mr. Mom” Trial Court’s decision caused the disruption of the existing caretaker roles o On the decision to grant custody to Alice based on her higher income: the fact that one parent is the primary caretaker should always outweigh the fact that the other parent is more financially stable.
Feb 1982 – Robert and Alice married in New Mexico o Have two daughters (1985, 1988) o Since birth of kids, always had either a live-in nanny or a housekeeper o Robert (Architect) – successful practice, till Stock Market Crash (1987) o Alice (Lawyer) – blossoming legal practice, since marriage in New Mexico till eventual stay in Florida, experienced continuing success, and increasing income 1989 – Family moved to Florida o Alice went ahead with the kids, having found a good paying job ($120K/yr) at a prestigious law firm o Robert followed, but especially in the early years, was often away from Florida (regularly returning to New Mexico for various projects) 1993 – Alice earning ($275K/yr), accepted position at one of Fla.’s largest law firms (over $300K/yr) o Robert then went back to Fla., mostly for good Robert voluntarily unemployed (6 years by time of trial) – Architecture at the time demanded a lot of computer work, but Robert a self-described as computer illiterate NOTE: no agreement between the spouses that Robert would stay at home with the kids to be “Mr. Mom” – (1) Alice kept requesting Robert to get a job, (2) They employed “Hattie”, 12p to 8p, to take care of the kids and do housework At the same time, Alice worked 45 to 66 hours per week. (But still made time for the kids.) Robert began to spend more time w/ the kids: “Mr. Mom” (school activities, coaching soccer, etc.) o Apparently this was the time that Alice first asked for a divorce o Robert and Alice separated May 1995 – Alice filed for divorce o Trial Court issues Alimony Child Custody (MAIN SOURCE OF CONTROVERSY)
Digest Author: Dodot
With adequate child support, Robert can continue to provide for the children [in a primary caretaker role] o On Robert having been away frequently pre1993: he has subsequently been the primary caretaker since fall of 1993 o On the awarded alimony: inadequate (remanded to, and should be revisited by the lower court) Based on rehabilitative plan presented by Robert Based on the lifestyle established during marriage Based on the inequitable division of assets Based on the insufficient attorney’s fees granted o DISPOSITION: Reversed and Remanded nd Fla. Dist. CA (2 tme around): Rehearing En Banc decision is supported by substantial, competent evidence and is not based upon legally impermissible factors (ex. gender bias), it must be affirmed on appeal. Fla. Dist. CA affirmed the Trial Court’s decision, but recommended that the alimony be modified on remand, as previously stated.
Opinions: C.J. Schwartz (Dissent) o Status quo arrangement (Mr. Mom) had worked well – why should the court tamper with it? o Children entitled to stability o Gender bias slanted the decision – what if the hard-working lawyer was the husband, and the unemployed architect was the wife? o Decision did was not based on the most important consideration: the children’s best interests. J. Nesbitt (Dissent) o Gender bias Why don’t you get a job? To husband J. Goderich (Dissent) o There might have been no agreement for Robert to be Mr. Mom, but the family nonetheless acquiesced to the arrangement. o Gender bias Father should have found gainful employment (would the court have decided similarly if the wife were the one who had been unemployed?)
Pertinent laws/provisions/concepts: Appellate Court Standard of Review If there is substantial, competent evidence to support the trial court’ determination – trial court cannot be deemed to have abused its discretion and its ruling must be left undisturbed on appeal Issues: 1. Should Robert have been awarded custody of the children? [NO] Ruling/Ratio: 1. NO. NO BASIS FOR THE COURT TO OVERTURN THE LOWER COURT’S DECISION Standard of review as an appellate court – not met (Appellate courts are not permitted to retry a court’s determination, or reweigh the evidence.) Trial Court’s reasons for granting primary custody to Alice, valid Alice more economically stable: Robert voluntarily unemployed, and in debt Alice most constant factor throughout the entire relationship: (1) Robert away for various reasons (while refusing to find employment) – pursued buried gold in New Mexico, visited sick/dying brother, handled brother’s estate upon demise, Alice even cited an extramarital affair; (2) “Mr. Mom” role overplayed – There was no MUTUAL AGREEMENT for Robert to be Mr. Mom (see Facts), Alice also took care of the kids and spent time with them(besides kids always had a nanny), Robert only became a fixture in the kids’ lives after Alice asked for a divorce Alice controls anger better around kids Trial Judges have better “view” of the parties involved (facts): as long as the trial court’s
Decision: Fla. Dist. CA affirmed the Trial Court’s decision, but recommended that the alimony be modified on remand, as previously stated. Principles: Management of the Household