A mother in Chicago claims that a judge stripped her of parental rights because she was not vaccinated against COVID-19.
"In what all parties agree is a very unusual and perhaps unprecedented step, a judge at Chicago's Daley Center has stripped Rebecca Firlit of custody because she refuses to get a vaccination shot," WFLD-TV reported.
Firlit says that she has not seen her 11-year-old son since Aug. 10, which is when she appeared in court via Zoom for a child support hearing along with her ex-husband. During the hearing, Cook County Judge James Shapiro allegedly asked Firlit if she had been vaccinated for COVID-19. She reportedly replied that she had not been vaccinated because she suffered bad reactions to other vaccines in the past.
Shapiro, a Democrat, then reportedly ordered Firlit be stripped of her parenting time until she gets vaccinated.
Since the ruling, Firlit said she hasn't seen her son in person for over two weeks. She has purportedly only been able to speak to her son on the phone and on video calls.
"I miss my son more than anything," Firlit told WFLD. "It's been very difficult."
"I think that it's wrong. I think that it's dividing families," Firlit added. "And I think it's not in my son's best interest to be away from his mother."
"It had nothing to do with what we were talking about. He was placing his views on me. And taking my son away from me," Firlit said.
Annette Fernholz, Firlit's attorney, said the judge overstepped his authority and noted that the boy's father never brought up the concern about his ex-wife's vaccination status during the hearing.
"In this case you have a judge, without any matter before him regarding the parenting time with the child deciding, 'Oh, you're not vaccinated. You don't get to see your child until you are vaccinated.' That kind of exceeds his jurisdiction," Fernholz told the outlet.
"You have to understand the father did not even bring this issue before the court," Fernholz added. "So it's the judge on his own and making this decision that you can't see your child until you're vaccinated."
Jeffrey Leving, the attorney for the boy's father, reportedly admitted he was surprised by the judge's decision, but supports the ruling.
"There are children who have died because of COVID. I think every child should be safe," Leving told WFLD. "And I agree that the mother should be vaccinated."
Firlit, who has been divorced for seven years, is appealing the court order. There is no timetable on when the appellate court will make its decision.
A spokesperson for Judge Shapiro told WFLD that they could not provide a comment at this time because of the ongoing nature of the case.
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