Judge reverses ruling to strip unvaccinated Illinois mother of rights to see son

Coronavirus

CHICAGO (AP/WGN) — An Illinois judge barred and later nullified his decision to stop a divorced mother from seeing her 11-year-old son because she wasn’t vaccinated against COVID-19.

Rebecca Firlit’s lawyer said the judge, not Firlit’s ex-husband, raised the issue during a recent child support hearing. They have been divorced for seven years and share custody of the boy, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Sunday, in what was called one of the first such rulings of its kind.

Cook County Judge James Shapiro asked the 39-year-old mother during an online hearing on Aug. 10 if she was vaccinated. When she said no, the judge withdrew her rights to see the boy until she gets vaccinated.

“I was confused because it was just supposed to be about expenses and child support,” the desk clerk from Chicago told the Sun-Times. “I asked him what it had to do with the hearing, and he said, ‘I am the judge, and I make the decisions for your case.’”

UPDATE: Illinois mother speaks out after judge restores right to see son amid vaccine controversy

Firlit said she has had adverse reactions to vaccinations in the past and that her doctor had advised her not to get a COVID-19 shot. The newspaper didn’t say if Firlit told the judge about her past problems with vaccinations.

The same judge reversed his decision Monday morning but did not close the door on whether vaccinations will be an issue down the road.

Firlit’s lawyer, Annette Fernholz, said she is asking an appeals court to intervene and overturn Shapiro’s ruling, arguing that the lower court judge is “very much exceeding his judicial authority.”

“Of course she’s very happy to see her son again but she’s also very anxious anticipating what the father’s attorney may file,” Fernholz told WGN.

The boy’s father, Matthew Duiven, is vaccinated and will fight the appeal, according to Duiven’s lawyer, Jeffrey Leving.

“So there’s no personal contact because we want to make sure the child is safe and if she thinks she needs not to take the vaccine for whatever reason, then we think that the child should not be physically with her until she takes the vaccine,” Leving told WGN.

The dad’s lawyer is planning to file an emergency motion tomorrow morning to suspend her parenting time. They only want her to be able to see her son by zoom, if at all. 

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