Family Law

Family law judge backtracks on visitation order for mom regarding COVID-19 vaccine

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After entering an order sua sponte to suspend a parent’s visitation rights until she received the COVID-19 vaccine, an Illinois family law judge revisited the issue Monday with a new order striking the restriction.

The Cook County, Illinois, action involves Rebecca Firlit and Matthew Duiven, who divorced seven years ago and share custody of their 11-year-old son, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. According to the article, Firlit was advised by her doctor not to get the vaccine because she had “adverse reactions to vaccines in the past.”

Annette Fernholz, who represents Firlit, and Jeffrey Leving, Duiven’s lawyer, confirmed that Cook County Circuit Court Judge James Shapiro did initially suspend Firlit’s visitation on his own until she was vaccinated in the Aug. 11 order. Michael Bender, the case’s guardian ad litem, confirmed that, as well. He also said the hearing was lengthy and difficult.

“The mom would not stop overtalking other people. She was upset and yelling, and he muted her after she wouldn’t stop,” says Bender, adding that she later unmuted herself, and the judge temporarily placed her in a Zoom waiting room.

“He did raise the vaccine on his own, but he was observing behavior that was concerning,” says Bender of Caesar & Bender in Chicago.

Fernholz told the ABA Journal in an email that she was not trial counsel at the hearing and does not have a copy of the transcript, so she could not comment on Bender’s characterization.

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