PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. - A South Florida woman fighting the circumcision of her son has fled with the boy and will face imprisonment for contempt if she doesn't allow the surgery to proceed.
Palm Beach County Judge Jeffrey Gillen said Friday that Heather Hironimus could avoid jail if she appears before him by Tuesday with the child and signs paperwork needed to schedule the procedure.
The 4-year-old boy's father, Dennis Nebus, testified he last saw his son Feb. 19.
Court documents show that Hironimus and Nebus had a son together on Halloween 2010. Although never married, the couple is considered to be the legal and biological parents of the boy.
Hironimus and Nebus agreed to a circumcision in a 2012 legal document, but Hironimus later changed her mind and fought to prevent the boy's circumcision. Circuit and appellate judges have sided with the father.
In a telephone interview with Local10.com, attorney Thomas Hunker said he recently began representing Hironimus after her previous lawyer, Taryn Sinatra, withdrew.
Hunker said he filed a motion to have a court-appointed guardian ad litem for the boy and is seeking to have a mental health professional evaluate the boy's "emotional state" to determine if circumcision is "something that would be advisable." He said the goal is to make sure the child "has an independent voice" and isn't caught up in his parents' squabble.
"It's the boy who's really going to have to live the rest of his life with the decision," Hunker said.
Last year, Sinatra told Local10.com that there was no medical reason to circumcise the boy.
Friday's revelation that Hironimus disappeared with the boy is just the latest saga in the ongoing legal battle. It has become a rallying cry for circumcision opponents, who demonstrated outside the South County Courthouse in Delray Beach.
Hunker said he can't speak to the whereabouts of his client, but added that it was his "understanding that the boy is safe." He said Hironimus has until 2 p.m. Tuesday to appear before the judge.
When asked how he came to represent Hironimus or what led Sinatra to withdraw from the case, Hunker was hesitant to answer.
"I was retained," Hunker said.
A woman who answered the telephone at Sinatra's office wouldn't comment and abruptly hung up when asked why Sinatra withdrew.
Nebus' attorney, May Cain, declined to comment "due to the sensitive nature of the matter."
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