Cook County Judge James Shapiro told Rebecca Firlit in early August she would not be allowed to see her 11-year-old son because she refuses to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Firlit divorced her husband seven years ago and had been sharing custody and parenting time.
Firlit said she told the judge she had not gotten the COVID-19 shot because she'd had adverse reactions to vaccines in the past.
But, on Monday, the mother's attorney told FOX 32 Chicago that the judge reversed his previous order and said that Firlit could see her son after all.
"Judge Shapiro just issued an order vacating portions of his prior order of August 11th so Rebecca Firlit can see her son again," attorney Annette Fernholz told FOX 32 Chicago.
Fernholz said Shapiro's decision to reverse his ruling was spurred by national backlash after the story was first reported by FOX 32 News.
"I think there’s been a lot of media outcry," Fernholz said. "The divorce bar here in Illinois has been responding when they saw it on the news."
Firlit says she cannot wait to see her son, whom she has not been able to have in-person contact with since Aug. 10.
"I was surprised but my reaction is I’m grateful," Firlit said.
After the initial block to her access, Firlit said she was distraught.
"I miss my son more than anything. It's been very difficult. I haven't seen him since August 10th," Firlit told FOX 32 Chicago in an exclusive interview. "I think it’s not in my son's best interest to be away from his mother."
An attorney representing the 11-year-old boy said there is more to this case.
"The judge needs to look out for the best interest of the child," said attorney for the son Michael Bender, who described Firlit’s behavior during the hearing as "volatile."
Bender believes the judge may have been concerned about the boy’s safety and used the vaccination question to force a cooling-off period.
"He was seeing something that clearly said to him, ‘There is an endangerment to the child right now.’ And we’re gonna act on it," Bender said.
But Firlit denies her courtroom behavior played a role in the judge’s decision.
"It definitely was not a reason to take my child away from me," Firlit said. "I’m not an endangerment to him. Nothing was filed about that. Nothing that we were in the hearing for had anything to do with it."
Even though Judge Shapiro has dropped the vaccination requirement, Firlit’s attorney is concerned it has opened the door for the boy’s father to make the same request. Attorney Jeffrey Leving, who represents the father, did not respond to FOX 32's calls for comment.
The attorney for the father, however, has said he was surprised but supportive of the initial decision to block Firlit's access to her son.
"There are children who have died because of COVID. I think every child should be safe. And I agree that the mother should be vaccinated," attorney Jeffrey Leving said.
Firlit may be reunited with her son as early as Wednesday.