Sept. 2, 2021 -- A Chicago judge took away a woman’s child custody rights last month because she hadn’t 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 Aug. 10 when Judge James Shapiro asked if she’d been vaccinated.

Firlit said she had not, because other vaccines made her sick and a doctor recommended that she not get vaccinated, The Tribune reported.

Shapiro then suspended her parenting time with her 11-year-old son until she provided proof of vaccination.

A Chicago TV station, WFLD, ran a story about Shapiro’s decision last weekend. On Monday he rescinded the order, citing precedents in which judges were restrained from changing custody agreements of their own volition, The Tribune said.

The WFLD story said Firlit and Duiven share custody and parenting time. Firlit’s lawyer said the judge overstepped his authority.

"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," Annette Fernholz told WFLD.

The case is hardly over. The lawyer for the ex-husband, Jeffery Leving, said he’ll file an emergency motion seeking to reinstate the original order, The Tribune reported. Leving said he would have brought up Firlit’s vaccination status if the judge hadn’t beat him to it.

Firlit said she hasn’t seen her son since Aug. 8.

“I talk to him every night; he texts me during the days,” she said. “Sometimes he cries. I tell him it’s going to be all right.”

Stacey E. Platt, clinical professor of law and associate director of the Civitas ChildLaw Clinic at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, said the custody dispute presents a complicated legal situation.

“There has to be a balance between a parent’s right to control her own health and a child’s right to safety,” she said. “It’s a hard decision. We are in the midst of a pandemic but almost every family I can think of is making certain safety compromises, including sending their children to day care or school or allowing them to play with playmates.”

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The Chicago Tribune: “Cook County judge rescinds order stripping unvaccinated Pilsen woman of child custody rights, but fight may not be over”

WFLD. “Cook County judge strips mother of parental rights because she is not vaccinated”

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