A Cook County judge has ruled that a Chicago mother cannot see her child until she is vaccinated for COVID-19. Cook County Judge James Shapiro stripped Rebecca Firlit of her parental rights at a child support hearing. Firlit is now appealing the court order, saying the judge has no business taking away her parenting rights over vaccination status.
Flirit appeared in court via Zoom along with her ex-husband for a child support hearing involving their 11-year-old son on August 10. Unprompted, Shapiro asked whether or not Flirit had been vaccinated. The mother told him that she had not due to a history of adverse reactions to vaccines. Shapiro then ordered that Firlit be stripped of all parenting time with her son until she gets vaccinated.
Since the ruling, Flirit has been able to talk to her son through video calls but has not seen him in person. “I miss my son more than anything. It’s been very difficult. I haven’t seen him since August 10th,” Firlit told FOX 32. “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 is now appealing the court order, saying the judge has no business taking away her parenting rights simply because she has not been vaccinated. “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 said. Her attorney, Annette Fernholz, says Shapiro has overstepped his authority. According to Fernhold, the child’s father had not even raised the issue with the court.
“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,” Fernholz said. “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 added.
The attorney representing the father, Jeffrey Leving, says they were surprised by the judge’s decision. He did add that they support the ruling, however. “There are children who have died because of COVID. I think every child should be safe. And I agree that the mother should be vaccinated,” Leving said. He added that the judge could be “breaking new ground” in future custody cases. No timetable has been given for a ruling on the appeal.