In a decision that may, hopefully, bring a degree of closure to one family, prosecutors in South Florida decided to drop criminal charges that were pending against a mother who had famously violated court orders related to the custody of her young son, the Palm Beach Post reported. The case made national news due to the issue at the center of the parents’ dispute (the child’s circumcision), but ultimately provides a reminder of the strong enforceability of parenting agreements, even if one parent has a profound change-of-heart later.
The parents in this case were a South Florida man and woman who had one son together. One of the terms within the pair’s 2012 parenting plan related to the son’s circumcision. The parents agreed in their parenting plan that the father would schedule the procedure, take the child to the procedure and pay for the procedure. The mother agreed that she would sign any paperwork needed to facilitate the procedure’s completion.
This parenting plan, on its face, appeared fairly straightforward. However, when the time came for the procedure, the mother refused to cooperate. The father went back to court seeking to hold the mother in contempt. The mother argued that she did not want the child placed under general anesthesia for fear of death. This was her only stated reason for opposing the procedure. A doctor testified in the hearing that the procedure was safe for boys up to age 10.
The trial court in Palm Beach County was not persuaded and, in 2014, ruled that the mother had presented no valid basis for not enforcing the parenting plan the parents agreed to in January 2012. The Fourth District Court of Appeal upheld that order. Instead of complying with the court’s orders, the mother made the decision to take her son away rather than turn him over to the father. This action ultimately led to the state’s bringing criminal charges against the mother for felony custodial interference.
The mother eventually relented. She was jailed for a time for contempt. She purged that contempt and got out of jail only upon signing the release form required to allow the circumcision to go forward.
Her signature on the release resolved the contempt issue, but not the criminal custodial interference matter. In that criminal case, the mother had to complete an 18-month program. When the mother successfully completed that program earlier this year, the state dropped the charges against her.
This example provides some important reminders for any parent going through a custody or parenting plan case. Once you agree to a parenting plan, there are only a narrow set of circumstances where you will not be held responsible by the courts for following through on the terms to which you agreed. For this reason, it is vitally important to have skilled counsel on your side and consider the matter very seriously and deeply before you sign onto an agreed plan.
Furthermore, defying a court’s orders can have serious consequences. They can include jail time for contempt or criminal charges for custodial interference. Defying a court’s orders is almost never the right answer.
Before you decide to enter into an agreed-upon parenting plan, make sure you have experienced counsel on your side. The skilled South Florida family law team at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. has helped many parents over the years use the legal process to obtain a parenting plan that works for their families. For reliable advice and zealous representation, contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.
More blog posts:
South Florida Mother Faces Arrest for Blocking Son’s Circumcision in Violation of Parenting Agreement, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, March 18, 2015
Supreme Court Declines to Hear Headline-Grabbing Case Regarding Toddler’s Circumcision, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Jan. 19, 2015