A judge in Cook County, Illinois took away a mother’s parental visitation rights to see her 11-year-old son when he learned that she did not get the COVID-19 vaccine. The mother, Rebecca Firlit said that the judge, James Shapiro told her she could not see her son until she received the COVID-19 vaccine.1
Firlit and her ex-husband have been divorced for seven years and have always shared custody parenting time with their son.1 Annette Fernholz, JD, Firlit’s lawyer, said that Firlit’s ex-husband did not raise her unvaccinated status as a problem.2
Mother Has a History of Adverse Reactions to Vaccines
Firlit appeared in court virtually for a child support hearing regarding her son during which the judge asked her if she had received the COVID-19 vaccine. She responded to the judge explaining that she had not got the COVID- 19 vaccine since she has a history of adverse reactions to vaccines.3 “I’ve had adverse reactions to vaccines in the past and was advised not to get vaccinated by my doctor. It poses a risk,”2 Firlit said. She added:
I was confused because (the hearing) was just supposed to be about expenses and child support. 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.’2
Judge Shapiro subsequently ordered that all Firlit’s parental visitation rights would be halted until she decided to get the COVID-19 vaccine.3 Firlit said she believes the judge was placing his personal views and opinions of the COVID-19 vaccination on her. Her lawyer said:
The trial court clearly exceeded its authority in sua sponte (by its own accord) suspending the mother’s parenting time when the issue before the court was child support. The father did not bring this issue before the court.2
Judge Reverses Ruling After Mother Files Appeal
After the judge’s ruling, Firlit was only allowed to speak to her son over the phone. She filed an appeal against the ruling and, a few weeks after he blocked Firlit’s visitation rights, Judge Shapiro decided to reverse the ruling and allow her to see her son in person.4
“I feel like this will resonate with people because this is how things will go if we don’t speak up,” Firlit said. “Dividing families, taking children from their parents, we have to speak out to make sure this is not the new thing. Unfortunately, I had to be the first person that this happened to, but parents aren’t going to stand for that.”5
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Click here to view References:
1 Palmer E. Mother Says Judge Blocked Parental Rights Because She Refused COVID Vaccine. Newsweek Aug. 28, 2021.
2 Gleeson S. Chicago judge rules mom cannot see her 11-year-old son because she’s not vaccinated. USA Today Aug. 30, 2021.
3 Placko D. Cook County judge strips mother of parental rights because she is not vaccinated. Fox 32 Chicago Aug. 28, 2021.
4 Balevic K. Judge changes course after ruling Chicago mom with shared custody can’t visit her son until she gets the COVID-19 vaccine. Insider Aug. 30, 2021.
5 Chiarito B. Judge rules Pilsen mom can’t see her son because she’s not vaccinated against COVID-19. Chicago Sun Times Aug. 29, 2021.