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

June 2, 2009

divorced parentsOur 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.

Picture courtesy of askpang.

12 Responses to “Court of Appeals: Full Custody Includes the Right to Make Educational Decisions”

  1. I’m keeping a very close eye on the Court of Appeals and for very good reason.
    I am an advocate currently fighting to uphold the principles of due process in a most disturbing case concerning the rape, battery and near killing of a mother of one left permanently disabled with a broken neck.
    Barbara Bracci was a long-serving and respected New York State corrections officer who claimed she was brutally attacked by her work supervisor, Captain William E. Peek. Bracci made tape recordings she claimed were of her remorseful attacker confessing to his crimes. She alleged the NY State Dept. of Corrections (DOC) took the tapes from her then conspired with a crooked judge to illegally withhold them from a New York court.
    The case first appeared before the New York Division of Human Rights (SDHR) in 2007. Bracci wanted her original tapes played in open court. DOC defied court orders and refused to give the tapes back to her. Instead the state defense counsel gave them instead, to the presiding administrative law judge (ALJ) who inexplicably refused to let them be heard.
    In a stunning piece of injustice the ALJ then took the tapes behind closed doors and weighed them secretly (ex parte, in camera) despite Bracci’s protests. Thereupon the ALJ ruled the tapes ‘unreliable’ and the case was dismissed. A perplexed Bracci protested and the matter went before the Appellate Division, Third Department earlier this year as an Article 78 special proceeding. Inexplicably, the tapes somehow became ‘lost’ and a tongue-tied (In)Human Rights declined to explain their actions in the higher court. So with Bracci having proof her tapes were now destroyed and with the opposing party declining to defend themselves, she duly filed for summary judgment.
    However, out of left field the Appellate justices made the Article 78 special proceeding ‘disappear’ and simply upheld the lower court’s judgment dismissing Bracci’s claim on May 14, 2009.
    Thus a New York higher court had not only condoned the secret weighing of evidence and then its destruction, it had unlawfully removed Bracci’s status as a litigant in an Article 78 special proceeding.
    Even a layperson looking at the court’s website under ‘Bracci-v-State Division of Human Rights’ (Case no: 506150) can see that nowhere does the term, ‘Article 78’ even appear.
    Thus this raped, abused and permanently scarred woman was outrageously cheated of her most basic rights to due process. Now Bracci is filing with the Court of Appeals. We shall soon see if the very highest court in New York dares be as corrupt.
    You see, I’m British and I grew up with a worldview of America as an honorable civilization. Like most people in the English-speaking world I was greatly influenced by Hollywood movies. I confess I have now learned that real ‘American Justice’ is quite different from what I saw in films. It appears your country has forgotten the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. Law is practiced very differently today and ‘American Justice’ is a fiction told in Hollywood.

  2. A Says:

    If this lady was really telling the truth then maybe someone would listen. But this is all about money. This lady has not make one truthful statement and even all the court orders say that she doesn’t even know what the truth is. She changes her story all the time. I should know because I am her relative!

  3. Another sensationalized story Mr.O’ Sullivan. I should know because I was there!
    The truth shall set you free….

  4. To those that do decry justice I assert you need to pay attention to one inescapable fact that I mentioned above:
    “Thus a New York higher court had not only condoned the secret weighing of evidence and then its destruction, it had unlawfully removed Bracci’s status as a litigant in an Article 78 special proceeding.”

    Judicial corruption only takes place when something truly outrageous has been perpetrated. Your personal views are clouding your morals – if you have any.

  5. Mr. O Sullivan, I hope you read this. The slander you have printed about my brother is not only disgusting, but criminal. I have obtained personnel records from your wifes infamous career thanks to NYS Law and FOIL. I can’t wait to write a tell all about your wife. I may even change her name, or should I use her real name and slander her like you did my family. Thank GOd we have very prominent lawyers in the family. After I finished reading the trash you wrote, I couldn’t wait to mail them a copy. How dare you refer to my brother as a serial rapist. You sir better be able to prove that in a court of law. As well as your wife’s abortion. All the allegations you made are not going to be taken very lightly. I hope you and your poor excuse of a wife did get money from the trash she claims to be truth as you are going to need it in our civil case. You sir have met your match and I can say that it will be a pleasure to meet you face to face in a court of law.

  6. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black, where sir, Mr. O Sullivan are your morals. Your trashy book about Summit Shock is nothing but a porn novel. My 84 year old mother says they have a word for your wife in America: WHORE!! I am certain there are many employees for the State of New YOrk that can back that up! I too work for the NYS Dept of Corrections and I am quite certain they do not protect anyone to what you think they have protected my brother. Is my brother innocent of extra marital affairs, probably not, but in this case he should only be chastised for picking a dog like your wife, short, fat and ugly!!

  7. Ms Peek Sorrell,
    I welcome receiving your so-called lawsuit for defamation. It will be my pleasure to prove your brother not only perjured himself in both the federal and NY courts but also admitted to raping an innocent woman.
    I pity your stupidity and ignorance in this, but I do empathise with your deep revulsion at the crimes your twisted brother committed.

  8. The only thing stupid is you Mr. O’Sullivan. Looks like your wife played you like a fool. Her past work history suggests she went after many high ranking NY Officers in Corrections. By the way are you still married to her today? What did she dump you too? If any one is twisted it is you and the SLUT you married. How much money did she promise you anyway to go along with her game? My brother’s only stupidity was getting involved, if he did, with a loser like your wife or ex-wife, whatever she is.

  9. Innocent? Have you looked it up in the dictionary. That is not a description of your wife. In your own book, you state several times that she went out of her way to meet my brother. What did he do duck tape her to get her to go to his house, or the cemetery. She is so stupid she can’t decide if she likes men or women. You two are pathetic. Get real. You are as big a loser as your wife

  10. If you say anything, you will be slaughtered. Follow my page Blow the Whistle, Get Slandered

  11. Pete Ridley Says:

    Donna and Debra, please have a chat with Gerald Skrocki.

    Also, you may find the comments by Andrew Skolnick and me on this thread ( but there is much more than that waiting to get into the public domain.

    Best regards, Pete Ridley

  12. Abigail Says:

    She promised him a lot of money and financed his filandering while he lived in the UK and she in NY. Also, dear Johnny boy is akin to a pedophile having used his position and influence as an “almost” teacher to garner admiration and affection from young female students. The courts acquitted him but not before many lies and smoke and mirrors on his part.

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