A Manhattan judge has ordered a Long Island father to get vaccinated or submit to weekly Covid-19 testing to see his 3-year-old daughter. Justice Matthew Cooper, who is presiding over the couple’s divorce and custody dispute, said, “Here, in-person parental access by [the] defendant is not in the child’s best interests, and there are exceptional circumstances that support its suspension. 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.”
He also stated, “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.”
Cooper is a high-profile judge that has presided over notable divorce and child custody cases, including Robert De Niro, Uma Thurman, and Lamar Odom. His ruling requires the father to either obtain the vaccine or submit a weekly PCR test and a biweekly antigen test within 24 hours of a scheduled appointment, which is every other weekend.
The lawyer of the mother in the case, Evan Schein, praised the decision and believed it was well-founded, saying, “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.”
However, the father’s lawyer, Lloyd Rosen, argued that the court had established a dangerous and unjustifiable precedent that was not based on science. According to Rosen, the father had already been infected with Covid-19 and is protected by natural immunity that may be more effective than the vaccine.
Rosen said, “My client is not a conspiracy theorist. He has concerns about the vaccine. He’s heard about side effects. He once had a bad reaction to a flu vaccine.” Additionally, the father contends that the vaccine requirement in the judge’s decision is an “unreasonable intrusion on his rights as an American citizen.”
During a meeting on September 2, the mother’s attorney expressed worries about the father’s vaccination status, prompting the judge to halt the father’s visitation until he got the vaccine.
The judge claimed that vaccination had become a requirement “to participate meaningfully in everyday society,” citing extensive vaccination mandates for public school teachers, police officers, and health care professionals.
Two weeks later, the mother suggested to the father that he could regain visitation rights if he agreed to the testing regimen. Despite the father’s objections, the judge agreed with the mother and modified the suspension to include the option of testing.
Cooper denied the father’s request for a full hearing, claiming that “the risk of imminent harm to the child” warranted skipping the procedural step in favor of a quick decision.
The father’s lawyer slammed the ruling, saying, “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. This is an absurd position to take.” It is unclear if the father will appeal.
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