A mother in Chicago issued statements to several media outlets that her parental rights had been stripped away by a Cook County judge in the wake of him learning that she had not yet taken the plunge and gotten the COVID-19 vaccine.
It was reported by Fox 32 Chicago that Rebecca Firlit, the mother in question, appeared in court through the use of a Zoom call back on the 10th of August for a child support heading with her ex-husband. “The two have been divorced for seven years and share custody and parenting time” concerning their 11-year-old child, reported the news outlet.
Firlit stated to Fox 32 Chicago that James Shapiro, a Cook County Judge, interjected during the hearing as to whether or not the mother had taken the COVID-19 vaccine yet. Firlit answered the judge by saying that she had not yet taken the vaccine due to the fact that she had had a previous bad reaction to other vaccines. Shapiro then promptly ordered that Firlit was to be stripped of her parenting time until such a time that she went and got the vaccine.
For well over two weeks Firlit was only able to talk to her child over the phone or through the use of video calling, but she was barred from seeing him in person.
“I think that it’s wrong. I think that it’s dividing families. And I think it’s not in my son’s best interest to be away from his mother,” Firlit stated to the news outlet.
Firlit then appealed the court order, making the argument that Shapiro went well beyond his authority as a judge when he denied her the right to see her child at all.
“It had nothing to do with what we were talking about. He was placing his views on me. And taking my son away from me,” Firlit stated to Fox.
Annette Fernholz, the attorney representing Firlit, told the news outlet that the judge had, in fact, overstepped in this case.
“In this case, you have a judge, without any matter before him regarding the parenting time with the child deciding ‘Oh, you’re not vaccinated. You don’t get to see your child until you are vaccinated.’ That kind of exceeds his jurisdiction,” stated Fernholz.
“You have to understand the father did not even bring this issue before the court. So it’s the judge on his own and making this decision that you can’t see your child until you’re vaccinated,” she continued.
Jeffrey Leving, the attorney for the father, stated that he was also surprised by the judge’s decision but agreed with it, given the fact that there have been quite a few children who had died from complications with COVID-19.
Firlit then told the outlet that she really missed her son.
“I miss my son more than anything. It’s been very difficult. I haven’t seen him since August 10th,” Firlit stated. “I think it’s not in my son’s best interest to be away from his mother.”
On Monday, after Firlits appeal, Shapiro decided to reverse his decision, as reported by Fox.
“Judge Shapiro just issued an order vacating portions of his prior order of August 11th so Rebecca Firlit can see her son again,” Fernholz stated to the outlet.
The representation for the mother also stated that she thought that Shapiro reversed his decision due to the extreme media backlash.
“I think there’s been a lot of media outcry,” Fernholz stated to Fox. “The divorce bar here in Illinois has been responding when they saw it on the news.”
Firlit stated that even though the appeal worked and the order had been reversed, she now was worried about her ex-husband using the whole ordeal as ammunition for future custody battles.