Legal Issues

Legal issues can come up from time to time in life. When there is a child with a disability in the family, legal issues like divorce, custody, guardianship, and trusts must be handled with careful consideration of the child and how they will be affected.
It is important for parents to know about some legal situations that could affect their child with disabilities.
These concerns include guardianship, finances, and services.
  • Will they be on their own as an adult or will they need a guardian to take care of them and help them through adult age?
  • Should they have Special Needs Trusts to protect money for their future needs?
  • What types of accounts can they save money with and not have it affect benefits such as Social Security (SSI) and Medicaid?
This section will help you to better understand some of the legal issues your child or young adult may face and how to plan for their future.


Information & Support

For Parents and Patients

The Arc of the United States
Provides fact sheets, webinars, and a lot of other information on public policy for families. The Arc works to protect people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families on the federal level through public policy efforts. Many local chapters are available.

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.

My Voice Counts - Supported Decision-Making (PDF Document)
As an alternative to guardianship, a self-advocate's guide to supported decision-making, for transitioning youth with special needs. Utah Parent Center, March 2017.

Planning Your Child's Future
A planning guide for parents and guardians with information about special needs trusts and much more 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.

Immigration Toolkit (Family Voices)
A collection of documents designed to inform, empower, and assist families of CYSHCN and the professionals who support them to prepare for the possibility of an emergent immigration situation and/or to collect supporting documentation that accurately reflects the extent of hardship on the health and well-being of a child with SHCN if s/he or the caregiver is detained or removed.

Services for Patients & Families Nationwide (NW)

For services not listed above, browse our Services categories or search our database.

* number of provider listings may vary by how states categorize services, whether providers are listed by organization or individual, how services are organized in the state, and other factors; Nationwide (NW) providers are generally limited to web-based services, provider locator services, and organizations that serve children from across the nation.

Authors & Reviewers

Last update/revision: December 2018
Current Authors and Reviewers:
Author: Chuck Norlin, MD
Reviewer: Gina Pola-Money