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Court of Appeals: Full Custody Includes the Right to Make Educational Decisions

Our office is committed to ensuring that our present and future matrimonial and family law clientsare fully apprised of the ramifications of their decisions. Mitchell H. Rubinstein, of the Adjunct Law Profs Blog, reported on a recent case in New York’s highest court, which was decided at the end of April, Fuentes v. Board of Education.

In that case, a couple was divorced and the divorce decree gave full custody to one parent and there was no provisions in either the decree or the custody order creating any system for shared educational decision making. The issue was whether, nonetheless, the non-custodial parent retained not only the ability to stay involved in the children’s education, but also the right to make decisions regarding to the children’s education.

In this case, the parties child, “M.F.,” was blind and required special education. Mr. Fuentes, the non-custodial parent, felt that M.F.’s services were inadequate. The Committe on Special Education disagreed and the Impartial Hearing office denied his request for an appeal, holding that he lacked standing to appeal because he was the non-custodial parent and had no right to make educational decisions for his child.

The Court emphasized that its desire was to see to it that couple’s work out questions of educational decision making at the time of divorce, rather than leaving the issue to result in possible litigation. In that vein, it would be advisable to fully discuss all major eventualities before one’s divorce is complete so that such ambiguities may be avoided.

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