A Boynton Beach mother is facing the prospect of going to jail, all because she had a change of heart and now is refusing to turn her son over to his father so he can have the four-year-old boy circumcised.
The story has grabbed national headlines and makes a good case for why it’s important for parents to give a lot of thought before signing a parenting agreement.
Last week, a Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge found Heather Hironimus in contempt of court for violating a parenting plan that she signed in 2012 with the boy’s father Dennis Nebus of Boca Raton. She has disappeared and is refusing to disclose her whereabouts.
While the couple never married, they did have an agreement relating to shared parenting responsibilities that included a clause allowing the father to take the boy for the procedure and pay for it.
However, not long after signing the agreement, Hironimus had a change of heart saying she had become better educated about the procedure and attempted to get a court order to block it.
The case has made its way through the courts, all the way to the Fourth District Court of Appeal. Last November, it affirmed a lower court ruling that the boy must undergo the circumcision although it did not comment. Last week, the Florida Supreme Court declined to take up the case, leaving the mother where she is today, in contempt.
Florida statute Section 61.13 governs parenting plans. It requires the following:
The court shall determine all matters relating to parenting and time-sharing of each minor child of the parties in accordance with the best interests of the child and in accordance with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, except that modification of a parenting plan and time-sharing schedule requires a showing of a substantial, material, and unanticipated change of circumstances.
In this case, the trial court judge found that the mother was not able to present evidence that would allow for modification of the plan. A change of heart, as she cited as the reason, is not enough.
It’s always good to give due consideration to what you are signing. Hiring a qualified family law attorney can help you.
Lori Barkus is a Florida Supreme Court Certified Circuit Civil and Family Law mediator and guardian ad litem. She handles matters relating to divorce, custody, child support, paternity, collaborative divorce, adoption, parental rights, and family law and civil mediation.
Ms. Barkus is a cum laude graduate of the University of Miami School of Law. She is admitted to practice in Florida, Georgia and the District of Columbia, as well as in the Southern and Middle Districts of Florida and the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court of Appeals. She is also a member of Leading Women for Shared Parenting.
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