US judge revokes mother’s right to visit son over her refusal to get Covid vaccine

A judge in Illinois revoked a mother’s right to visit her 11-year-old son because she refused to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

In what is believed to be an unprecedented ruling, Cook county judge James Shapiro said Rebecca Firlit, 39, who shares custody of her son with her divorced husband, could not see the boy again until she had taken the shot.

“I was confused because it was just supposed to be about expenses and child support,” Firlit told the Chicago Sun-Times about the virtual court hearing, which took place earlier this month.

“One of the first things he asked me when I got on the Zoom call was whether or not I was vaccinated, which threw me off because I asked him what it had to do with the hearing.

“He said, ‘I am the judge, and I make the decisions for your case.’”

Firlit’s lawyer, Annette Fernholz, said she had filed a legal challenge to the state appellate court, noting that the boy’s father had not been seeking such a ruling.

“The trial court clearly exceeded its authority in suspending the mother’s parenting time when the issue before the court was child support,” Fernholz said in a statement.

“The mother did not know her parenting time was being discussed when she went to Zoom court. The judge deprived her of notice and a full hearing on the issue.”

Firlit, who has not said if she will get the vaccine, told the judge her decision not to take it was not political.

“I’ve had adverse reactions to vaccines in the past and was advised not to get vaccinated by my doctor,” she said. “It poses a risk.”

Her son, she said, was upset at not being allowed to see her and cries when they speak by phone.

“I think that it’s wrong,” she said. “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.”

A spokesperson for the Cook county circuit court said the judge could not comment. Jeffrey Leving, attorney for the father, Matthew Duiven, said they supported the ruling.

While this is believed to be the first time a judge has used non-vaccination as a punitive measure, others have dangled the coronavirus shot as an incentive or reward.

Offenders in several dozen minor cases in Georgia have been offered shorter sentences in return for getting vaccinated. In New York, judges have been requiring a vaccination clause in certain plea agreements, or for a defendant seeking bail.

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