A Manhattan matrimonial judge has suspended a Long Island father’s visitation with his 3-year-old daughter unless he gets vaccinated or submits to weekly COVID-19 tests.
“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 Justice Matthew 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,” the jurist said in the Oct. 7 decision, which withheld the parties’ names.
The ruling requires the father to either get the jab or present a weekly PCR test in addition to a biweekly antigen test within 24 hours of a scheduled visit, which currently takes place every other weekend.
“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 the high-profile judge who presided over divorce and child custody cases involving actor Robert De Niro, actress Uma Thurman and former NBA star Lamar Odom.
The mother’s lawyer Evan Schein lauded the ruling and said it was fully justified.
“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,” he said.
But the father’s attorney countered that the judge had set a dangerous and unjustified precedent that isn’t based on science.
The dad was previously infected with COVID-19 and has immunity that may be as protective as vaccination, lawyer Lloyd Rosen told The Post.
“My client is not a conspiracy theorist,” the attorney said. “He has concerns about the vaccine. He’s heard about side effects. He once had a bad reaction to a flu vaccine.”
In addition, the father has argued that the requirement is an “unreasonable intrusion on his rights as an American citizen,” according to the decision.
The judge wrote that the couple split in 2019 and the proceedings have been contentious with the two wrangling over custody.
The father’s visits with his daughter are under the supervision of his mother due to a “history of substance abuse and untreated mental health issues,” according to the ruling. The child resides mostly with her mother in Manhattan, where she attends preschool.
On Sept. 2, the mother’s lawyer raised concerns about the father’s vaccination status during a conference, prompting Cooper to suspend the dad’s visitation until he received the jab. The jurist argued that inoculation has become a prerequisite “to participate meaningfully in everyday society” and pointed to sweeping vaccine mandates for public school teachers, police officers and health care workers.
About two weeks later, the mother proposed that the father could restore his visitation if he submitted to the testing regimen. Although the father objected, the judge adopted the mom’s position and amended the suspension to include the testing option.
The judge denied the father’s request for a full hearing, arguing that “the risk of imminent harm to the child” justified skipping the procedural step in favor of a swift ruling.
Rosen criticized Cooper’s reasoning.
“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,” the attorney said. “This is an absurd position to take.”
He said his client hasn’t decided on whether to appeal.