Supreme Court Declines to Hear Headline-Grabbing Case Regarding Toddler’s Circumcision

For some, it is about the ethics of performing arguably medically unnecessary surgery on a child. For other, it is about how much “say so” each parent should have in making decisions on behalf of his or her child. For the Florida courts, however, the case surrounding a child’s circumcision boiled down to the existence of a valid parenting agreement and the absence of any changed circumstances that would warrant the courts stepping in to avert that agreement’s execution.

The Palm Beach County parents H.H. and D.N. gave birth to the boy in 2010. The parents never married. Shortly after the child turned one, the parents each signed an agreed parenting plan. Parenting plans are required in cases that involve timesharing, even if the parents are in agreement about the timesharing schedule.

The document covered more than just timesharing. One paragraph stated that the father would schedule the boy for a circumcision, take him to the procedure, and pay for it. Neither parent is Jewish.

Some time later, though, the mother changed her mind about having her child circumcised. After originally believing that circumcision was “the right decision for my son,” the mother told the New York Daily News that she “had friends step in and educate me.” The mother sought a court order blocking the procedure. While the mother later asserted many arguments about the procedure’s potential physically and emotionally damaging effects on the child, her sole argument before the 15th Circuit Court was that the general anesthesia required for the procedure might be fatal to the boy.

The Circuit Court heard expert testimony from a urologist who testified that circumcisions generally last only about 17 minutes and that patients experience few if any post-operative complications. The urologist also told the court that circumcision reduces the chances of contracting HIV and eliminates the risk of penile cancer.

The statute that governs parenting plans, Section 61.13, requires that the parent who seeks to modify a parenting agreement must prove to the court that “a substantial, material, and unanticipated change of circumstances” has taken place. The court must also find that the proposed change is in the best interests of the child. After hearing all the testimony, the court concluded that the parents’ parenting agreement was legally valid and the mother had presented nothing to the court that would create a proper basis for modifying the circumcision portion of the plan.

The mother challenged this order throughout each level of the court system. As the case worked through the courts, it began generating national and international headlines, as well as spawning protests led by children’s advocates and anti-circumcision activists. The 4th District Court of Appeal affirmed the ruling without opinion. This past Friday, the Supreme Court elected not to take the mother’s case, leaving the child one step closer to circumcision.

In this case, the mother’s change of heart was not the sort of change of circumstances the courts require to modify a parenting plan. It is very important to contemplate carefully each aspect of your shared parenting agreement before you sign it. For reliable advice and zealous representation as you pursue a parenting agreement resolution, talk to the South Florida family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A.. Our attorneys can help you get to a conclusion that best benefits you and your family.

Contact us online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.

More blog posts:

Mother Declared in Contempt for Impeding Sons’ Relationship with Father, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Dec. 3, 2014
Establishing Time-Sharing and Parenting Plans for Children With Special Needs, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, July 14, 2014