Judge Grants Unvaccinated Mother Shared Custody of Child, Reversing Earlier Decision

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A Chicago judge who stripped a mother of her parental rights over her refusal to receive a COVID-19 vaccine has backtracked after the case received national media attention and will allow the woman to see her son, according to a new report. 

Cook County Judge James Shapiro recently issued an order vacating portions of his August 11 order that kept Rebecca Firlit from seeing her eleven-year-old son unless she received a COVID-19 vaccine, Firlit’s attorney told FOX 32 Chicago on Monday.

Firlit, who had previously shared custody and parenting time with her ex-husband, had not seen her son since August 10 because of the judge’s earlier order.

The couple, who have been divorced for seven years, appeared in court via Zoom for a child-support hearing on August 10, when Shapiro reportedly asked the mother if she had been vaccinated. Firlit said she had not received the shot because she has had adverse reactions from other vaccines in the past.

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Shapiro then reportedly ordered Firlit to be stripped of all parenting time with her son until she gets vaccinated. Firlit had only been allowed to speak to her son via phone and video calls. 

Now, Firlit may be able to see her son as soon as Wednesday.

Rebecca Firlit’s attorney, Annette Fernholz, told FOX 32 Chicago that she believes widespread media coverage of the case helped influence the judge’s decision to reverse his earlier decision.

“I think there’s been a lot of media outcry,” Fernholz said. “The divorce bar here in Illinois has been responding when they saw it on the news.”

Firlit said she was “surprised” but “grateful” about the judge’s change of heart.

However, an attorney representing the 11-year-old boy argued that the judge’s decision to block Firlit’s shared custody was about more than just the COVID-19 vaccine.

“The judge needs to look out for the best interest of the child,” said attorney Michael Bender, alleging that the mother’s behavior during the hearing was “volatile.”

“He was seeing something that clearly said to him, ‘There is an endangerment to the child right now.’ And we’re gonna act on it,” he said.

Firlit argues that her behavior during the hearing was not the reason for the judge’s earlier decision.

“It definitely was not a reason to take my child away from me,” Firlit said. “I’m not an endangerment to him. Nothing was filed about that. Nothing that we were in the hearing for had anything to do with it.”

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