A Long Island father is being refused the right to see his 3-year-old daughter by a judge's ruling unless he gets the COVID-19 vaccine.
The father, who has yet to be identified, must either get the jab or submit to weekly COVID testing, according to Judge Matthew Cooper.
'Here, in-person parental access by defendant is not in the child's best interests, and there are exceptional circumstances that support its suspension,' wrote Cooper, who is presiding over the pair's divorce and custody dispute
'The dangers of voluntarily remaining unvaccinated during access with a child while the COVID-19 virus remains a threat to children's health and safety cannot be understated,' Cooper added.
The family was not named in the ruling.
The father in this case must either present a weekly PCR test or be fully vaccinated. He must also get a biweekly antigen test within 24 hours of his every other weekend visits.
'Unfortunately, and to my mind, incomprehensibly, a sizable minority, seizing upon misinformation, conspiracy theories, and muddled notions of 'individual liberty,' have refused all entreaties to be vaccinated,' argued Cooper.
Cooper is a high-profile judge. In the past he's ruled over the divorces of A-listers like Robert De Niro and Uma Thurman and former NBA player Lamar Odom.
Evan Schein, the attorney representing the mother, praised the ruling.
'It's an incredibly important one that highlights the extraordinary times we are living in and reinforces that a child's best interests are paramount,' Schein told the New York Post.
But Lloyd Rosen, the father's attorney, believes Cooper is setting a dangerous and precedent.
'My client is not a conspiracy theorist,' Rosen said. 'He has concerns about the vaccine. He's heard about side effects. He once had a bad reaction to a flu vaccine.'
The father has previously been infected with COVID-19 and Rosen believes he has an immunity that may protect him as well as a vaccine.
The couple broke up in 2019 and the custody fight has been contentious over the 3-year-old, Cooper wrote in his decision.
Currently, the father's visits are under the supervision of his own mother due to a 'history of substance abuse and untreated mental health issues,' according to Cooper's ruling.
The child primarily lives with her mother in Manhattan, where she attends preschool.
On September 2, Schein raised concerns on behalf of the mother about the father's vaccination status, which led to Cooper suspending his visitation until he received the jab.
Cooper said inoculation has become a prerequisite 'to participate meaningfully in everyday society' and referenced vaccine mandates for teachers, cops and health care workers.
Two weeks later, the mother said that she would be willing to restore visitation if he submitted to the proposed COVID testing.
The father rejected, but the judge agreed with the argument and amended his suspension to include that as an option.
Cooper then denied the father's request for a full hearing, arguing that he needed to act in the best interests of their child.
Rosen criticized Cooper's ruling.
'This judge must feel that 80 million Americans who aren't vaccinated are placing their children at imminent risk or harm and, therefore, the courts should intervene and remove those children from their parents,' he said. 'This is an absurd position to take.'
Rosen said his client hasn't decided whether or not to appeal.
There have been cases like this popping up around America as federal, state and local governments continue to try and convince people to take the shot.
Back in September, a Chicago father in a custody battle with his ex-wife filed an emergency motion to prevent her from being reunited with their 11-year old son today because she is not vaccinated.
Rebecca Firlit was barred from seeing her son for the same reason by Cook County Judge James Shapiro on August 10, but Shapiro reversed the decision two days ago and has since recused himself from the case.
Rebecca Firlit (left) and her attorney Annette Fernholz (right) are fighting for a Chicago court to permit Firlit to be able to see her 11-year old son
Judge James Shapiro has since recused himself from the case and said in a statement, 'Public perception may be that I can't be fair and impartial'