The Twiggs' attorney, John Blakely, countered that the divorce threat was ''a senseless publicity stunt" designed by Robert Mays, Kimberly's legal father, who has raised her since the day she left Hardee Memorial Hospital in Wauchula, Fla., in 1978.
The Twiggs also brought home a newborn girl from that hospital at about the same time, whom they named Arlena. Nine years later, shortly before Arlena's death from a congenital heart defect, they learned through genetic tests that the girl they had raised could not have been their child.
Subsequent genetic testing has proved that Kimberly is the Twiggs' biological daughter. In February 1989, the Twiggs announced that they would no longer fight for custody of Kimberly, though they were certain she is their daughter. Instead, they have been trying unsuccessfully since then to negotiate an arrangement that would allow them visits and other contact with Kimberly.
Blakely said yesterday that the threat of a divorce would not stop the Twiggs from pursuing their right to visit Kimberly.
Such a lawsuit, in which a child must show a pattern of severe parental abuse or neglect, would have no chance of success, he said.
"She wants to stop this bickering. She wants to stop the Twiggs from attacking Bob Mays. She wants to stop the Twiggs from attacking her deceased mother," said Mays' attorney, Arthur Ginsburg, who joined Robert Mays at a news conference at Ginsburg's Sarasota law office yesterday.
Kimberly did not attend the news conference.
In any event, it seemed unlikely yesterday that such a divorce action would be filed. The law firm has no intention of filing a divorce action against the Twiggs on Kimberly's behalf, and Kimberly would have to find another law firm to bring such an action, said Judith Lee, a paralegal acting as Ginsburg's spokeswoman. "This isn't our area," Lee said.
But Blakely, the Twiggs' lawyer, contended that the real reason behind the divorce threat was Robert Mays' anger at a recently published book, The Baby Swap Conspiracy, by Loretta Schwartz-Nobel of Gladwynne, which quotes sources who depict Mays as an abusive father.
The Twiggs lived in Langhorne, Bucks County, from 1987 to 1989, when they moved to Sebring, Fla., they said, to be closer to their daughter.