Judge Tells Mom She Can't See Son Until She's Vaccinated

Rebecca Firlit hasn't seen her 11-year-old since Aug. 10
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 30, 2021 7:33 AM CDT
Judge Tells Mom She Can't See Son Until She's Vaccinated
In this June 23, 2021, file photo, a nurse prepares doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at an inoculation center.   (AP Photo/Armando Franca, File)

Rebecca Firlit showed up to what she thought would be a typical child support hearing via Zoom; the Chicago mom has been divorced for seven years and shares custody of her 11-year-old son. She ended the hearing having lost her visitation rights due to her vaccine status in what the Chicago Sun-Times says may be the first such ruling in America. The subject of vaccinations wasn't raised by Firlit's ex, but rather by Cook County Judge James Shapiro.

Shapiro asked if she was vaccinated early into the hearing; Firlit, who says her doctor advised her not to get a COVID vaccine due to prior adverse reactions, says she was thrown for a loop and asked what that had to do with the planned child-support discussion. "He said, 'I am the judge, and I make the decisions for your case,'" says Firlit. She says she was told that she cannot see her son until she's vaccinated. Firlit's attorney, Annette Fernholz, says it's judicial overstep and she hopes to get in front of an appellate court this week.

Says Fernholz, "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." But the boy's father, who is vaccinated, says he backs the judge's decision and plans to fight the appeal. In the meantime, Firlit is stuck communicating with her child solely by phone. "I miss my son more than anything," Firlit tells Fox 32 Chicago. "I haven't seen him since August 10th," the day of the hearing. (This defendant was told by a judge to get vaccinated or go to jail.)

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