Mother Says Judge Blocked Parental Rights Because She Refused COVID Vaccine

A mother in Chicago has criticized a judge who she says stripped her of visitation rights because she was not vaccinated against COVID-19.

In what could be the first case of its kind, a judge at Cook County's Daily Center said Rebecca Firlit cannot see her 11-year-old son until she has received the shot, reported FOX News 32.

Firlit and her ex-husband have been divorced for seven years and until recently shared custody and parenting time with their 11-year-old son.

On August 10, the pair appeared in court via Zoom for a child support hearing.

During the hearing, Cook County Judge James Shapiro reportedly asked Firlit whether she had been vaccinated yet. She said she told the judge she hadn't because she has suffered bad reactions from other vaccines she had in the past.

In an unprecedented move, Shapiro then ordered Firlit be stripped of all parenting time with her son until she gets vaccinated, said the report.

For more than two weeks, Firlit said she has only been able to speak to her son on the phone and on video calls, but not 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 News.

The mother said that the judge should not have been able to stop her from seeing her son because she is not yet vaccinated.

"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 said.

"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."

Firlot's attorney, Annette Fernholz, was quoted in the report as saying the judge overstepped his authority, adding that the father did not even bring up her vaccination status during the hearing.

"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."

Jeffrey Leving, the attorney for the boy's father, told Fox 32 News that while he is surprised at the decision from Shapiro, he still supports it given that more and more children are suffering severe symptoms and even dying as a result of COVID-19.

"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 in the report.

Leving added the decision will break new ground with regards to how child custody hearings could be decided elsewhere.

It is unclear if Firlit is now planning to get the vaccination.

The Cook County Court has been contacted for comment.

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A registered nurse practitioner loads a syringing with the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine during a partnership with the hospital network and Amazon to increase the efficiency of vaccinations, at the Amazon Meeting Center in downtown Seattle, Washington on January 24, 2021. A mother says a judge took away her parental rights after finding out she is not vaccinated against COVID-19. GRANT HINDSLEY/AFP/Getty Images