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UPDATE: Judge Reverses Decision to Revoke Unvaccinated Mother's Custody of Her Son

A Chicago-area mother is now allowed to see her son after weeks of court-ordered separation

A Cook County judge who originally decided a mother cannot see her 11-year-old son until she gets the COVID-19 vaccination has reversed his decision. 

The mother’s attorney, Annette Fernholz, confirmed the judge’s reversal on Monday, Aug. 30.

The original revocation against Rebecca Firlit, 39, occurred during a virtual court hearing on Aug. 10.

She says she was “caught off guard” when Judge James Shapiro asked her about her vaccination status.

“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,” Firlit said. “I was confused because it was just supposed to be about expenses and child support. I asked him what it had to do with the hearing, and he said, ‘I am the judge, and I make the decisions for your case.’”

Firlit told the Chicago Sun-Times“I’ve had adverse reactions to vaccines in the past and was advised not to get vaccinated by my doctor. It poses a risk.”

Fernholz told the paper that Firlit and her ex-husband have been divorced for seven years and that they share custody. Fernholz added that the ex-husband had not raised the issue of vaccinations.

“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 Fox32.

Prior to the judge’s reversal, Firlit was only able to speak to her son over the phone. 

Matthew Duiven, the boy’s father, is vaccinated. He indicated, via his attorney Jeffrey Leving, that he will fight his ex-wife’s appeal. Leving told the media that, while they were surprised by the judge’s ruling, he and his client believe that — because of the pandemic — it is necessary to protect the boy from his unvaccinated mother. 

Reason Magazine noted in January that a Colorado court rules that “failure to vaccinate endangers the health of the children.”

Accordingly, the Colorado Court of Appeals, Marriage of Crouchfound that a divorced father could vaccinate his children — even though he had originally agreed not to — because he was able to prove “that the failure to vaccinate endangers the children’s physical health, and that the risks of vaccination are ‘extremely low’ as compared to its benefits of ‘preventing severe illness, permanent severe damage, and death.’”

Typically, when parents share custody of their children, they are expected to make all major medical decisions jointly. 

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