In an action brought under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a father brought an action seeking relief on behalf of him and his disabled son. Because he was the non-custodial parent, the distirict court held that he did not have standing to bring the action. The Second Circuit held that standing turned on an unsettled issue of New York state law and certified the question for decision by the New York State Court of Appeals.
The certified question is:
Whether, under New York law, the biological and non-custodial parent of a child retains the right to participate in decision pertaining to the education of the child where (1) the custodial parent is granted exclusive custody of the child and (2) the divorce decree and custody order are silent as to the right to control such decisions?
The Second Circuit noted that two departments of the Appellate Division, New York's intermediate appellate court, have held that non-custodial parent does not retain such a right, but it "was reluctant to take that final step [considering the Appellate Division decisions as determinative] in the absence of a Court of Appeals pronouncement because the ruling has broad implications affecting the custodial relationships in New York -- a matter of paramount concern."
The decision in Fuentes v. New York City Department of Education can be found here.