We hear it all the time. For one reason or another, there are many people who genuinely need a lawyer’s help but can’t afford to hire one. Such a circumstance is certainly true for many parents of children with special needs. Many such parents incur costs for their child’s testing, treatment, accommodations, etc. So, the additional cost of hiring a lawyer can seem unimaginable even for something as important as protecting their child’s right to an education.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) guarantees a free appropriate public education to those children with disabilities. In short, school districts work with parents to develop and implement an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) that is meant to provide for the unique needs of the child. However, parents and school districts can disagree about the nature of the child’s IEP. When this happens, the child’s right to a free appropriate public education is a risk. At this point, it is likely best for the parents to consult with an attorney, but most won’t. Why? The cost.
A common obstacle that stops many parents from hiring an attorney to help battle their child’s school district over an IEP is the cost. But, many of these parents are unaware that the IDEA allows for the recovery of attorney’s fees in certain circumstances. Most commonly, when parents are awarded attorney’s fees it is because the parents prevailed against the school district at a due process hearing (and on appeal, if applicable).
Parents can also address the payment of attorney’s fees during settlement negotiations. After filing a due process complaint, parents and school officials will participate in a resolution conference, mediation, or other such alternative dispute resolution process prior to a hearing taking place. As part of the settlement, it is possible for the parties to address the payment of the parents’ attorney’s fees. However, collecting attorney’s fees this way is trickier, so parents should be sure to work closely with their attorney.
There is no guarantee that you will recover attorney’s fees, but the IDEA allows for it, and, generally, the earlier you get an attorney involved, the better. So, don’t let the cost be what prevents you from hiring an attorney to safeguard your child’s guaranteed right to a free appropriate public education.
If you have found yourself in a disagreement with your child’s school district over your child’s IEP, give King Law a call at 888-748-5464 (KING) to schedule a time to speak with one of our attorneys. King Law’s offices across Western North Carolina and South Carolina are conveniently located and offer flexible meeting times to meet your hectic and demanding schedule. We want to be a part of the solution and walk with you through the process.
For more information on IEPs visit our Special Education Blog.