Heather Hirominus' Consent Was Not Under Duress

Heather Hirominus’ Consent Was Not Under Duress

Some of the press surrounding the Heather Hironimus case has really gotten under my skin. You’ve probably seen the bit that is misinformation, “consent under duress.” That seems straightforward because what she signed in court was a consent form, which gives consent. And the judge threatened to keep her in jail if she didn’t sign it, which would be duress.

The problem is that she gave consent in 2012 when she agreed to the parenting plan. She then changed her mind and it went to court, which is where you go when you can’t settle a contract issue with the other party. In the end, the court upheld the plan. She then refused to appear or comply with the court and engaged in parental kidnapping to avoid the court’s decision, that’s what put her in jail in the first place.

I’ve read about 15 articles and the circuit court docket on their case to catch up on this thing. Here’s a basic timeline of what I’ve figured out.

  • October 31, 2010: Chase is born
  • December 2, 2010: Dennis Nebus (Dad) files petition for paternity
  • January 6, 2012: (entry 50 in docket) Parenting Agreement is entered into court (allows Dad to schedule and pay for circumcision, Mom may attend)
  • Late 2013: Dad notices son urinating on his leg. Pediatrician diagnosis phimosis and recommended circumcision, urologist disagreed with the diagnosis but also recommended circumcision
  • March 25, 2014: (entry 71 in docket) Motion for contempt – motion to compel medical treatment.
  • May 9th, 2014 (entry 87 in docket): Order enforcing parenting plan
  • December 23, 2014: Appeals court affirms circuit court order enforcing parenting plan

After that Dad filed several emergency motions to get the orders enforced. The judge also issued a gag order on the parties involved and against the media using the child’s name or photo. The mother “took refuge” with her son in a domestic violence shelter to avoid the court’s order. Eventually, a warrant was issued for her arrest for criminal interference with child custody (parental kidnapping) and contempt of court. After a week in jail she signed a consent form for the circumcision. She is hailed a hero, Dad is painted the villain.

The main issues I’ve identified around this case being put in headlines and on social media are:

  1. Mother “consents to circumcision under duress” due to threat of continued jail time.
  2. Child’s disapproval of “mutilation” is ignored – children have no rights.
  3. Circumcision is barbaric.
  4. Judge has too much authority over lives.

On the first issue, she gave her consent when she signed the parenting plan. Signed a consent form in court after two courts upheld the contract was not “consent under duress.” It was her fulfilling part of the contract that she previously agreed to! This is sensationalism, it needs to stop.

On the second issue, this is something we need to talk about. How much say should/when a child have over their own medical decisions? A sub-element in this case that isn’t being discussed though, is whether the child’s opinion is his own informed opinion, or something that’s been scared into him. She testified that he said, “My son has mentioned things to me that he’s scared to have his penis cut off.” That doesn’t sound like someone that’s been clearly informed of what a circumcision is.

On the third issue, this is also something we need to be talking about.

On the fourth issue, do schools teach anything about courts and separation of powers? Judges have judicial authority to apply legislation to situations and determine appropriate outcomes, within the constraint of the legislation. Though they sometimes have to “fill in the blanks” of unclear or poorly written legislation, they cannot make or change the law. Issuing judgement’s based on personal opinion and contrary to legislation is abuse of judicial authority. Judges sometimes have to issue orders they disagree with, not because they enjoy cognitive dissonance, but because it’s the law they’re sworn to uphold.

On that note, before hating on Judge Gillen, consider that he refused to order the disclosure of the shelter where Heather was hiding to allow process of service. He also said something we can all agree with that’s indicative of a clear mind: “You are going to have to learn to deal with each other in a civil and amicable manner .. You don’t take the law into your own hands. You don’t make unilateral decisions. You may never have been married, but you will always be this little guy’s parents.”

This case brings out some issues worthy of discussion. But is mainly promoting sensationalism. While little information about the Dad’s case is available, the hero status of this woman concerns me. She changes her mind about complying with a parenting plan, plasters her child through the media, refuses to appear or comply with court orders, engages in parental kidnapping (while foundations are raising $35,000 for her defense) and we’re supposed to feel sorry for her?

My own experiences have probably biased me a little. But the more articles I read, and the more I review the docket this smells like a woman using her child to make life hard for her former partner, under the guise of a legitimate issue. But I guess that just means I support child mutilation. See how convenient that is?