Photos of empty school desks

Special Education Rights During Covid


Protecting our clients has always been our highest priority. As families are dealing with school closures and the impact of COVID-19, we want to provide special education-related information, parent resources, and guidance where we can.

Now, perhaps more than ever before, we all need reliable advice and information. Find guidance and help from the Texas Education Agency, Department of Education, local school districts and more.  

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Back-to-School Challenges 


Click2Houston.com addresses some of the current back-to-school challenges facing parents of students with special education needs. “For the parents of children who live with minor to severe disabilities, the push for schools to re-open is about making sure their students don’t fall any further behind.” Texas Education Agency plans and special education related-resources are also outlined by Click2Houston.com.

In addition to the suggested items, consider requesting all of your child’s records to understand the school’s data. And if needed, consider asking for a new evaluation or a second opinion evaluation.

Child giving second child a piggy back ride

Taking the First Step in Special Needs Planning 


Future planning for your child is only one of the many challenges facing parents of children with special needs. However, delaying special needs planning can mean not planning at all.

Will your child be able to earn a living? How should you determine the financial help needed for your child’s future? What about social, residential, decision-making, and benefits planning?

We understand that planning for the long-term future of your child can cause enormous stress.

But there is never a better time than now to begin the special needs planning process.

One of the easiest ways to take the first step in planning is to give us a call. We can guide you through an individualized process designed for your child and your goals.

But, if you are not ready to reach out, taking any step toward planning can be beneficial. For a more arm’s-length first step, consider using one of many free online special needs planning calculators.

For example, Harty Financial has a simple online three-minute questionnaire designed to guide parents through the planning process. The calculator assesses the cost of everything from medical assistance to food and shelter, clothing, physical therapy, education, and entertainment for your child.

While a calculator can not replace a one-on-one consultation with an experienced special needs attorney, it can help answer some basic questions and move the process forward.

Find the Harty Financial calculator at specialneedsmap.com. “Though there is no substitute for planning with a family on an individual basis, we believe that this calculator has the potential to be transformative to the millions of Americans with a child with special needs,” says Caleb Harty, a co-founder of the firm.

After that step is taken, it may be easier to make decisions about ongoing care, decision-making planning, special needs financial planning, housing and social planning, transition planning, and benefits.

Whenever you and your family are ready, however, we are here to help.

Child on bench alone

Divorce and Special Needs Planning 


What happens to your child with special need when you get divorced? How does the issue of child support come into play? Now? And in the future, when the child is an adult? Before you start the separation process, keep in mind the following key issues.

What is the role of child support? Any divorce involving children must take their needs into account. Usually, the noncustodial parent is required to provide money to the parent who has custody of the children. The purpose of this support is to provide the same degree of financial security that the children had prior to their parents’ separation.

How long does child support last for a child with special needs? In most cases, child support ends when children reach the age of majority and can earn their own living. But for those who will never be able to earn an income due to a permanent disability, support obligations can continue into the future, beyond childhood.

Although family law varies from state to state, in most cases courts will recognize the parents’ obligation to support their special needs child even in the event of a divorce. This extends beyond childhood for those who require money for their care and support throughout their lives, and a portion of this funding is supplied by the noncustodial parent per the original divorce settlement.

Are there exceptions to child support once the person with special needs becomes an adult? Yes, depending on when the disability occurred. If the person became disabled as an adult, no child support payment would apply as part of a divorce settlement.

Courts will also look at the financial resources of the child with special needs. If these are sufficient to pay for that person’s care and living expenses into the future, the noncustodial parent may not face support obligations, unless the assets are all held in a special needs trust.

How would a special needs trust affect child support requirements? Courts generally don’t take income and assets in a special needs trust into account when determining the amount of child support to award the custodial parent.

Will ongoing child support affect the individual’s eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)? Because access to SSI depends on a beneficiary’s income and resources, even small increases in income can cause a reduction or loss of SSI benefits. Unfortunately, when an SSI beneficiary’s parent is ordered to pay child support, those payments can end up ruining the beneficiary’s access to government benefits. To protect against this outcome, it may make sense to create a special needs trust for the child’s benefit. The court can then order the non-custodial parent to make support payments directly into the special needs trust. The trust will shelter the income and allow the beneficiary to retain SSI benefits, and, in many cases, the support payments can be retained in the trust if not immediately used.

How might estate planning figure in? In many cases, courts will require that the noncustodial parent provide for the special needs child in his or her will.

If you are in the beginning stages of separation or divorce, and you have a child with special needs, it is important to plan long into the future. Make a point to fully understand these key questions as you talk to your special needs attorney.