The drama continues in the Hironimus case, the Florida mother who defied a judge’s order to turn her four-year-old son over to his father in March so that the boy could be circumcised, pursuant to a 2011 parenting plan that both parties agreed to. In 2014, Judge Jeffrey Gillen ordered the mother to allow the circumcision. She instead checked into a domestic abuse crisis shelter with her son. Judge Jeffrey Gillen held Ms. Hironimus in contempt of court on March 6 for failing to make the boy available to his father. The judge gave her until March 10 to appear in court with the boy, or face jail time. When she failed to appear, the judge issued a warrant for her arrest on March 10. She has remained in hiding ever since.
The plot thickened on Monday, April 13 when Ms. Hironimus, through her attorney, filed a federal lawsuit challenging the court-ordered circumcision as a violation of state and federal laws. The complaint alleges that forcing the circumcision is a violation of the boy’s civil rights under the Establishment and Free Exercise of Religion Clauses of the First Amendment, as well as under the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S Constitution. The complaint also alleges that forced circumcision of the four-year-old, who has expressed that he does not want it and is afraid of it, constitutes assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, and/or child abuse under Florida law and is not in the child’s best interests. Ms. Hironimus has named the boy’s father, Judge Gillen, all judges of the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit of Florida, Sheriff Bradshaw of Palm Beach County, and all Florida sheriffs as defendants in her lawsuit.
The plaintiff’s attorney further explained that the judge refused to put safeguards in place to protect the child’s psychological and emotional condition with respect to the proposed circumcision. The plaintiff challenges the medical necessity of the procedure, which will have to be done under general anesthesia, and claims that its dangers outweigh the benefits. The father has asserted no religious reason for his son undergoing circumcision, and the plaintiff alleges that, as a Christian, her son’s religious freedom is being violated.
Contempt of Court in Family Law Cases
It is important that parties to a parenting plan understand the seriousness of their agreement because it is legally binding. As can be seen from this case, continued refusal to honor the terms of the plan can have major negative consequences. Ms. Hironimus’s refusal to produce her son for the procedure when it was within her ability to comply with the court order has resulted in her being held in contempt of court. Contempt of a family court order carries with it the possibility of jail, assessment of fines and other costs (including attorney’s fees and costs of the lawsuit), and any other relief that the court may deem necessary and suitable. It remains to be seen whether the federal court will accept Ms. Hironimus’s arguments in her lawsuit as sufficient to override the legal requirement to comply with the terms of a parenting plan and the court order.
Child custody battles often become messy. The best advice a parent can follow is to seek the assistance of a competent family law attorney. James S. Cunha is an experienced Palm Beach Child Custody Lawyer who has helped many clients in South Florida work through challenging situations involving every aspect of family law. Please call the Law Offices of James S. Cunha, P.A. toll free at 800-558-1227, or locally at 561-429-3924 to schedule a one hour consultation.