September 2, 2021 – A Chicago judge last month removed child custody of a woman for not having been vaccinated against COVID-19, only to reverse his order on Monday.
Rebecca Firlit told the Chicago Tribune that she and her ex-husband Matthew Duiven were in a child support hearing on Aug. 10 when Judge James Shapiro asked if she had been vaccinated.
Firlit said she didn’t do this because other vaccines were making her sick and a doctor recommended not to get vaccinated, The Tribune reported.
Shapiro then interrupted her parental leave with her 11-year-old son until she presented proof of vaccination.
A Chicago television station, WFLD, ran a story of Shapiro’s decision this past weekend. On Monday, he overturned the order, citing precedents preventing judges from changing custody arrangements of their own accord, The Tribune said.
The WFLD story says Firlit and Duiven share custody and parental leave. Firlit’s attorney said the judge had exceeded his powers.
“In this case, you have a judge who doesn’t care about parental leave and the child decides, ‘Oh, you are not vaccinated. You cannot see your child until you are vaccinated.’ That is beyond his responsibility, “said Annette Fernholz to WFLD.
The case is hardly closed. The ex-husband’s attorney Jeffery Leving said he would make an urgency motion to restore the original order, The Tribune reported. Leving said he would have brought up Firlit’s vaccination status if the judge hadn’t outdone him.
Firlit said she hasn’t seen her son since Aug. 8.
“I talk to him every night; he writes to me during the day, ”she said. “Sometimes he cries. I tell him everything will be fine. “
Stacey E. Platt, clinical professor of law and assistant director of the Civitas ChildLaw Clinic at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, said the custody battle was a complex legal issue.
“There needs to be a balance between the parents’ right to control their own health and the child’s right to be safe,” she said. “It is a difficult decision. We’re in the middle of a pandemic, but almost every family I can think of makes certain safety compromises, including putting their children in a daycare or school or playing with playmates.