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Legal Issues

Legal issues can arise from time to time in life. When there is a child with a disability in the family, some legal issues like divorce, custody, and caregiving must be handled with careful consideration of that person and how they will be affected.
It is very important that parents know about and understand some legal aspects that are specific to their child with disabilities.
These concerns include guardianship, finances, and services.
  • Will they be independent as an adult or will they need a guardian to take care of them and assist them through adulthood?
  • How does the Guardianship process work?
  • Should they have a Special Needs Trust to protect money for their future needs?
  • What types of accounts can they save money with and not have it affect benefits such as SSI and Medicaid?
This section should help you to better understand some of these legal issues regarding your child or young adult and how to plan for their future.

Resources

Information & Support

For Professionals

A Family Handbook on Future Planning (ARC)
Helps families develop a plan that provides personal, financial, and legal protections for their children with cognitive, intellectual, or developmental disabilities after the parents either die or can no longer provide care; a publication of The Arc of the United States and the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) on Aging with Developmental Disabilities.

For Parents and Patients

Special Needs Alliance
This is a national nonprofit organization of member attorneys who work regularly with planning for special needs. The site has up to date content and a “search for an attorney” tool.

National Guardianship Association
The website is an excellent source of information on the rights and responsibilities of the incapacitated individual, as well as the guardian. The site also has resources and provides educational training and network opportunities for guardians.

American Bar Association Commission on Disability Rights
The Commission works to promote the ABA's commitment to justice and the rule of law for people with mental, physical, and sensory disabilities.

Special Needs Trust
An explanation of a special needs trust by the Pacer Center.

Financial Planning, Exceptional Parent Magazine
An in-depth resource that provides information about trusts, the legal side of financial strategies, divorce, and more. Exceptional Parent Magazine, search "financial."

Sound Financial Strategies (PDF Document)
Provides information about special needs trusts including trustees and oversight.

Services

Guardianship

We currently have no nationwide Guardianship service providers listed; search our Services database for related services or, if relevant for you, a state link above.

Legal Services, General

We currently have no nationwide Legal Services, General service providers listed; search our Services database for related services or, if relevant for you, a state link above.

For other services related to this condition, browse our Services categories or search our database.

Authors & Reviewers

Initial Publication: June 2008; Last Update: June 2017
Current Authors and Reviewers (click on name for bio):
Authors: Tina Persels
Chuck Norlin, MD
Reviewer: Gina Pola-Money